|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, November 16, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
dancers and MBA students
interviews and interviews
dancers and MBA students
At a time when male dancers are becoming a rarity, Ajay Viswanath is one brave soul to defy the odds and embrace Bharatanatyam as his career. And for this young dancer from Bangalore, who was in Chandigarh to perform for the Karnataka Rajyotsava celebrations here, dance is not just a medium to appeal to the aesthetic sense, it is much more than that — imbibing a sense of discipline in life for instance.
"Learning dance brings discipline in life because once you have dedicated your life to some particular dance, you are forced to live life according to certain norms," says Ajay who has made Bharatanatyam a part of his life since the age of 11. An exponent of the Mysore School of Bharatanatyam, Ajay has been thoroughly moulded to be a fine male dancer by his guru Lalitha Srinivasan, a dancer and teacher whose teaching heritage dates back to Natya Saraswati Jatti Thayamma of the Mysore Court.
After his debut performance in 1994, Ajay has given many solo and group performances along with Nupura, the dance school founded by Lalitha Srinivasan, in India and abroad. A Vidwant (senior grade exam in Bharatanatyam) with distinction, Ajay is an approved artiste of Bangalore Doordarshan.
Though driven by an intense passion to excel in his field, Ajay does not believe in sticking to just one field. An MBA from Bangalore University Ajay is teaching in the CNK Reddy College of Management there. "I do not believe in closing my mind to other just fields," says Ajay. "I teach dance students in Nupura and MBA students in CNK and it helps me to broaden my horizons, giving me an opportunity to derive the best from both fields," he adds.
And even two such demanding careers have not satisfied his appetite for learning new things, Ajay has also ventured into "Kalaripayattu" — the Keralite form of martial arts. " Though it is a martial art, Kalaripayattu is complementary to my dance form, because the body movements you learn here help you to grow as a dancer," says Ajay, whose forte is expressing emotions through body movements.
"Emotions can also be portrayed
through body movements which is called ‘nrittya’ in technical
terms," says Ajay. "Expertise in ‘abhinaya’ comes only
with maturity," he adds. Ajay, who wants to establish himself as
a solo dancer of repute, is at present exploring various methods of
body movements as a tool for expressing emotions.
He is synonymous with ventriloquism — the ever-smiling figure with an immensely lovable puppet.
He is Ramdas Padhye who, along with his puppet "Ardhavatrao" (Mr Crazy), has entertained audiences around the globe.
But today he laments with a heavy heart the dying art of ventriloquism and puppetry, mainly due to dearth of professionally trained people and failure to use modern techniques to promote the art.
"The traditional Indian puppeteers are mostly illiterate and concerned only with earning two square meals a day,’’ Padhye says. "The art has the potential to survive and there are lots of people ready to sponsor artists, but one has to approach the right people.’’
Currently in the limelight because of the ongoing puppetry festival at Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, Padhye is rubbing shoulders with ventriloquists from around the world and sharing experiences and ideas.
"Though it is fortunate for me as I have a monopoly in this field, I am ashamed that my country does not boast of many professionals in ventriloquism,’’ he says.
The reason behind the dearth of professionals could be the lack of institutes or schools teaching this art, says Padhye, who has long been planning an academy to remove this lacuna.
"But the response from the government is nil,’’ he moans, "Maybe it is too specialised for the government to pursue.’’
"The only other professional Indian ventriloquists are S.M. Roy from Chennai and Claude Penny from Kolkata, who died recently. But they had limited audiences as Roy performs only in exhibitions and Penny did shows only in the night-club circuit,’’ he says.
Ventriloquism or the art of ‘’throwing one’s voice’’ is just an illusion. "One can’t throw voice, that is, one can’t change the source. But the illusion is created by diffusing or muffling the voice so that the spectator does not know where exactly it is coming from,’’ Padhey explains.
The illusion is completed by the movement of the puppet’s mouth, which distracts the spectator, making him think that it is the puppet which is speaking, he says. "Ventriloquism is 40 per cent voice and 60 per cent illusion.’’
A mechanical engineer from Mumbai’s prestigious VJTI institute, Padhye chose ventriloquism as full-time profession in the early 1970s and has since travelled the world with his "talking dolls".
The art was first introduced in India by Padhye’s father Prof Y.K. Padhye in 1920. Padhye, with his wife Aparna, popularised the art in the country in a big way, exploiting every medium, from stage to television to films, making his father’s creations, "Ardhavatrao" (Mr Crazy) and "Aavdabai" (Darling Lady) household names.
He says ventriloquism is a difficult art to master, which can be another reason for the lack of professionals in the country.
"It is like classical music. One can learn it in a few days but it takes years to gain mastery in the art. Many people come to me to learn the art. But they expect instant results, which is not possible.’’
There are two varieties of ventriloquism — near ventriloquism and distant ventriloquism. Near ventriloquism is when one performs with a dummy — one can see where the voice is coming from.
The voice on the other end of a telephone conversation or the voice of a hawker in the distance who cannot be seen are examples of distant ventriloquism, he said.
"On stage, the performer enjoys the advantage of distance from the audience. Since the spectator is at least 12-15 feet away, small lip movements by the ventriloquist are not seen.’’
In comparison, the performer on camera is seen from only one angle. But the camera catches everything and the performer cannot make any large movements, he adds.
Padhye’s list of achievements
is endless. He made puppets for Kellogs chocos. He was the voice
behind Lijjat Papad’s Bunny Rabbit. His talking dolls and puppets
featured in one of Falguni Pathak’s music videos and he also
performed with his puppets in several Hindi and Marathi films. UNI
Interviews are becoming a chancy affair these days. Film stars, politicians and sportspersons keep on hogging the screen. Interviews range from breathless quickies in the news — with every channel picking up the same person in town and in their different programmes on the same day — to long boring affairs with 20 questions written down in advance and no spontaneous interjections. However, we do have some good interviewers around and last week had some very interesting persons in town and one really enjoyed listening to conversations with some of them.
Vir Sanghvi was very relaxed talking to Zubin Mehta and we had some newer glimpses into the personal life of the conductor, discussed with delicacy and tact. One still feels sorry that Sanghvi’s programme is in the early evenings on Sundays, when many people are away for weekends. It surely deserves a better slot.
Professor Chomsky was in town too and I watched two interviews with him. Srinvasan Jain on Star asked more conventional general questions, but Paranjoy Guha-Thakurta on CNBC got down to more cerebral specifics and it was a hard-hitting half-hour with Chomsky hitting out at everyone, including India. Rajdeep Sardesai abroad got some interesting people including a Russian general who said it would not be possible to catch Osama bin Laden and that the air strikes could not win the war and it was the ground battles which would count.
Rajiv Mehrotra, whose interview programme ‘Mindscape’ has been running for some years now, interviewed the very topical Samuel Huntington of clash of civilisations fame. Rajiv is one of our most experienced interviewers (I am proud of the fact that I chaired the jury which gave him Doordarshan’s Janki Gaur awards some years ago). He always does his homework and his interviews progress at an easy pace with lots of time for thoughtful interjections. The Huntington interview was one of his finest. Which is why I was appalled to be told that the series has ended with this interview. Trust DD to kill its best programmes. And then we come to Arnab Goswami’s brief encounter with Amartya Sen. For lack of time it had to be a mini-talking heads but Goswami made the most of it, rounding it off with excerpts from one of Professor Sen’s public speeches. I might mention here that Arnab, with a fellowship to Cambridge, had the release last week of his book, ‘Combating Terrorism — The Legal Challenge’, very apt in the context of POTO. There was a distinguished panel to discuss it and every panellist referred to his skills as an anchor. Arun Jaitley paid him the supreme compliment by saying:" He always makes his point as an anchor and then leaves you free to make yours. And even when the discussion gets very heated, he always keeps his cool". I would like to endorse that. I might also mention that the best and earliest interview of Mira Nair was on CNBC. The absurd swinging camera, in limelight which made Mira, sitting sedately on a chair, do everything except sit on her head, ruined the interview. And when the camera was still, there was a partition between Mira and the interviewer, which made it look like a confessional. Camera gimmicks are completely out of place when there is a conversation going on.
Finally, amidst the horrors of war and civilians getting killed in bombing attacks, I think the most joyous moment for all viewers last week (except the Taliban, who had ironically banned TV sets) was to watch the boys and elders of Kabul having their beards shaved off while a laughing crowd watched and see some women casting off their burqas. These are the golden moments of TV and reminded me of the jubilation (I was then in Berlin) of the Berlin Wall coming down and the jubilant crowds embracing each other).
TAIL-PIECE: The Afghanistan campaign has certainly had some casualties right here on our TV screens. Almost all the anchors on all TV channels with the honourable exception of Prannoy Roy, notably on the usual word-perfect Star News, has been pronouncing bombing as BING’, although every dictionary will tell you that the second ‘B’ is silent.