Artistic confluence

MITRA PHUKAN reviews a artistic experimentation of a kind rarely seen in Guwahati so far


When it comes to the field of the performing arts, Guwahati is certainly, these days, a vibrant place. The numerous auditoriums and halls of the city reverberate throughout the year with beautiful performances of song, dance, theatre, mime and more.

However, it is seen that when it comes to dance or music performances of a more contemporary, or experimental nature, the city seems to lag behind a little. True, experimental work certainly is being carried out, but it is usually within the framework of the traditional. Besides, one does not really get to hear or see the kind of multiplicity of genres that are showcased regularly in larger cities of the country.

It was therefore a milestone in the performing arts scenario of Guwahati when “Confluence” was staged at the Guwahati Medical College auditorium on the evening of the May 2 before a culturally evolved gathering. The programme featured a group of young and highly talented artistes who, together and individually, pushed the boundaries of artistic experimentation of a kind rarely seen in this city so far. It was indeed a confluence of mediums, styles and individual aesthetic modes, all within the broad canvas of the performing arts. Dance, the piano and the keyboards, combined with the voices of the cello and the mridangam brought in an ambience that was at once pleasurable and exciting.

A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s prestigious Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, Menaka P P Bora is a fine example of today’s young artistes. Articulate, committed, intelligent, cerebral and respectful of styles other than her own, she brings to her dance the qualities of thoughtfulness and a contemporary sensibility. She also has the usual requirements for dancers in plenty : grace, and a supple body which she uses as an instrument to depict her thoughts. Living in London for many years now, Menaka’s repertoire – academic and artistic – is expansive. With an MA in Transnational Communications and Global Media from Goldsmiths, University of London, and a PhD in Ethnomusicology, she also studied ballet and contemporary dance at Laban Centre in London.

Menaka’s artistic roots lie in the Bharatanatyam and Sattriya traditions, though she has been exposed to other genres. Her work that evening was an amalgamation of the Bharatanatyam and the contemporary, distilled through the filter of her own creativity. Interpreting the various themes through postures and hastas reminiscent of, but not fully belonging to the Bharatanatyam tradition, and also through stances and postures of a totally contemporary kind, she evoked the essence of these themes. Her supple body was easily able to accommodate the demands made on it by her inventiveness. It was interesting to note that in her dances, she merged the “flow” of two traditions. That is, the importance placed on “gravity” in Bharatanatyam melded seamlessly with the “anti-gravity” idea of ballet.

Dancing to a well known song by Parbati Prasad Barua, she showed the emotions of the doe when her partner, the deer, is killed by a hunter’s arrows. Spring,  Summer 1 and Summer 2, with Ronojit Chaliha and Vinoth Ramakrishnan and Adiel Massarwere explorations of particular evocative aspects of the seasons. She performed also to Dr Bhupen Hazarika’s iconic “Bistirno Parorey”, emoting the questions asked in the song with sensitivity. This is a song which, in its translation as “Ganga” has been danced to by many renowned dancers, and it was heartening to view Menaka adding her own innovative inputs to this interpretation. It was also refreshing that none of the usual “Shringar” pieces that are such a staple of dance recitals here, formed part of her repertoire, which focussed instead on themes such as devotion, nature, social inequality, and so on. One looks forward to viewing more of Menaka’s work some years down the line, when, with the maturity of age, she will be able to bring more variety and diversity to her postures and gestures as she uses her body to express her thoughts and feelings.

If Menaka is young, Ronojit Chaliha (Piano/Keys) is even younger. Not yet out of his teens, this lad has prodigious talent, backed by immense confidence and years of extreme hard work. A pianist who trained in Western Classical Piano initially, Ronojit has now crossed over to Jazz. He has played at many venues across the world.  He recently performed at the Delhi International Jazz Festival, 2013 and has already played with many great artistes such as F.A. Talafaral, Karan Joseph, Floyd Fernandes and others. He has attained appreciation from some of the country’s greatest musicians such as Louis Banks and Joe Alvares.

Ronojit’s concerts for select audiences have always been luminous in their beauty. His chosen genre is jazz, a style that is very rarely heard in this part of the world. It was a pleasure listening to his work on the acoustic piano as well as the keyboards. Training under a renowned Piano pedagogue, Mrs. Roxana Anklesaria-Doctor of Pune, he is slated to go abroad soon for higher studies on his chosen instrument. Beginning with  Chick Corea’s Humpty Dumpty,  he continued with Smitten and Chaser, co-composed by him and Adil Manuel and Adiel Massar, respectively .His flights of musical fancy did justice to his chosen genre of the evening, jazz. Adeil Massar of Shillong on the cello and Vinoth Ramakrishnan  on the mridangam added to the electric environment. Indeed, the solo piece on the mridangam while sticking to the “shastriya”, brought in strong elements of the contemporary as well.

The evening ended with a brief illuminating interaction between the artistes with media personality Wasbir Hussain.

It is indeed heartening to find that the younger generation of artistes are now exploring newer ways of expressing themselves through their chosen mediums, and doing so with such confidence and elan. “Confluence” proved that young and talented artistes are pushing the envelope, and breaking boundaries as far as styles and rigid mindsets are concerned. Their mastery of their mediums shows their total dedication and the hard work that they have put in. It was obvious, too, that a great deal of effort must have gone into preparing for this show,as well. All this augurs well for the future.

Mitra Phukan

Mitra Phukan

Mitra Phukan is a writer, translator, columnist and classical vocalist who lives and works in Guwahati, Assam. Her published literary works include four children's books, a biography, and a novel, "The Collector's Wife". Her most recent work is another novel, "A Monsoon of Music" published by Penguin-Zubaan in September 2011. Besides, her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her works have been translated into several languages. She is the Northeast correspondent of the Chennai-based journal of the performing arts, "Shruti" and a member of the North East Writers' Forum.