In a red, cemented space smelling of sweat and anti-inflammation spray, a handful of dancers dressed in tracks and tees go through their paces. “Veena, I need you to bob your head down deeper here,” says the lithe girl who had been watching the proceedings with a hawk eye, following her words with a half-squat and a quick movement of the head.
It is yet another day of rigorous, bone-challenging rehearsals for the 15 dancers of Nritarutya, a seven-year-old Bangalore-based outfit described by critic Sunil Kothari as “one of the finest groups in contemporary dance”. It has taken them a year—from conceptualization to choreography—to get this production off the ground. And now, days away from the premiere of Prayog 3, strained muscles and taut tempers are considered hard-won scars of the battle for hearts and minds.
“Prayog is a show we put up every few years. We would love to make it an annual affair, but the costs are too high and sponsors aren’t willing to back us since they believe we address only a niche audience,” says Mayuri Upadhya, 27, artistic director of the company.
It is an irony, since the troupe goes out of its way to make its art accessible. Belying the idea that dance belongs to the proscenium stage and the cognoscenti, they have performed in venues as diverse as the Miss India contests, luxury conferences, on the streets during Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda Festival and at London’s Trafalgar Square Festival.
Dance, dance: In its choreographies, Nritarutya adapts traditional dance forms in a contemporary context.
“We have our roots in traditional forms, and we have the deepest respect for these forms,” says Upadhya. “But when we feel the need to communicate in our own language, we choose contemporary dance.”
How contemporary is it? Well, how about a choreographed section on the metrosexual male? In Mars, four superbly structured young men—all rippling muscle and sure-footed arrogance—play with familiar Bharatanatyam mudras and stances to depict the many dimensions of man.
“The idea was not to go too deep,” says Sathya B.G., associate creative director of the troupe and choreographer of Mars. “The concept is simple: What happens when the young man encounters a traditionally feminine art form such as dance?”
Alongside the ghungroos and castanets used by the dancers, the music for Mars, composed by Chennai-based Darbuka Siva, relies heavily on percussion instruments. Each piece has had music designed specially for it, alongside costumes by couturier Deepika Govind.
But perhaps the most fantastic piece is Upadhya’s. Titled Dwandwa, it uses a 20ft long green-and-gold dragon and a two-dancer phoenix as counterpoints in man’s struggle for supremacy. “My piece emphasizes that we have a choice: Are the bird and the beast to be conquered and controlled, or won over and made an ally?” says the choreographer.
It is the company’s willingness to experiment with new themes and expand the idiom that makes connoisseurs such as Kothari a fan of their work. “At the same time, their use of martial arts and the classical dance forms is also genuine,” he says.
Like all contemporary art, dance, too, is open to interpretation. Watch it to find yours.
Prayog 3 will premiere on 4 January at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore.
Front and centre
If you condemn films made purely for escapism, then here’s a festival that will rank high on your scoreboard. It is the second Bangalore International Film Festival and, through one week, it will showcase 110 contemporary and classic films from more than 40 countries.
The Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy and the government of Karnataka come together to showcase some of the best films from either side of the Vindhyas. From the Academy Award-winning The Lives of Others (2006) and Oscar-nominated Yesterday, to Osama (2003) and Dollars and White Pipes (2005), there is an exceptional range of choices.
From hazy mornings to rainfilled afternoons, from crowded city to empty country, everything is perfect in Anh Hung Tran’s Vertical Rays of the Sun (2001), based on the lives of three sisters living in present-day Hanoi. Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly (2005) exposes the ugly face of warfare, while celebrated film-maker Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) gives his take on the fashion world through a provocative murder mystery.
In colour: The 2006 Oscar winner.
“We are screening both contemporary and classic films to make the fest well rounded and multidimensional,” says H.N. Narahari Rao, the festival’s programme director, who hand-picked the choices. As secretary of the International Film Critics Association, Rao attends various festivals each year and is on the jury of several film festivals, including Bangkok, Rome, Mumbai and Goa. “I am in touch with 120 critics from all over,” he says.
Their input is reflected in this year’s event, especially in the retrospectives of legendary film-makers Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan), Julio Médem (Spain) and Emir Knoturica (Yugoslavia). The Homage section will feature a film each of Ingmar Bergman (Sweden), Michaelangelo Antonioni (Italy), Ousmane Sembene (Senegal), Istral Gaal (Hungary) and K.K. Mahajan (India). At least 10 foreign delegates and more than two dozen Indian delegates are expected to attend. There will also be a section on documentaries, including a retrospective of celebrated documentary maker Joris Ivens.
With a gallery of rich cinematic work and films full of sharply drawn characters, the festival offers a stirring portrait of life itself.
The Bangalore International Film Festival will take place from 3 January to 10 January. For more details, visit Suchitrafest.in
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