Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Issues concerning Mohiniyattam , points by Prof GS Paul, GS Rajan Mythili Anoop, Anirudha Varma and others - Courtesy Lasyatarangini@facebook


Prof. George S Paul

I’d like to share some of my recent observations with the dance fraternity:It was a fascinating experience to be associated with two Dance projects in the month of March 2012 – ’Suddha Nritta in Classical dance forms’ in Thrissur and ’60 Years of Mohiniyattam’ in Ramamangalam. As someone associated with dance Festivals/ Seminars/Workshops in various capacities of a Director/Resource Person/Moderator/Journalist over the past 25 years, I have to admit that this is really a period of resurgence. There is a wealth of young talents who have taken to dance on a professional level, more so in Mohiniyattam. The surging enthusiasm on their part is really inspiring. Gone are the days when the delegates had to be coaxed to ask questions during the interaction sessions. Absence of prejudice and ego among the younger generation is auspicious for the dance form. For, they alone can address the problems judiciously. Needless to mention that Suddha Nritta is the stamp of individuality of a dance form. But Mohiniyattam leaves much to be desired in this. Most of the performers anchor on abhinaya for eliciting applause from the audience. In the absence of proper standardization of its rudimentary parameters, sky seems to be the limit for the variants. The need for summarizing the contributions of each individual is more felt nowadays than ever. Only an institution of authority ( not an individual) can do this; and that institution is Kerala Kalamandalam. On the flip side, introduction of Mohiniyattam as a discipline in the universities/Colleges does not augur well for the dance form. Being just diploma mills, the courses in these institutions just prepare the students to get through the examination to qualify for the degree. (Here, Kalamandalam alone seems to be an exception). And that is the obsession of the student too. This is counterproductive. Moreover, the faculty in these institutions cannot motivate them, ignorant as they are about the new developments in the terpsichorean arts.Ramamangalam is situated in Ernakulam district within a distance of 15 to 20 km from two such institutions offering degree, post-graduate and Ph D courses in Mohiniyattam. Not even a single student or staff from them turned up for the seminar on ’60 Years of Mohiniyattam’ on March 18 (notwithstanding all the provocations like Certificate, no registration fee and food). Perhaps, the situation may change after new blood will be infused to the faculty, may be in another ten or fifteen years.

Rajan G Srikrishnan 
The entire stage presentation needs to be revived. For a common man Mohiniattam means same speed or 'sme thing' from beginning to end and he or she may enjoy it for the 15 minutes because of beautiful costumes. (I am referring to new audience and not that experts or performers). Without innovation and experimentation any tradition can become stagnant. Restructuring repertoire, bring in texts from various languages, add new movements and make the chollukettus in order and also with variations. All these can be done without forsaking the basics of Mohiniattam. We need more brains like Neena Prasad to do all these and market the new look Mohiniattam, worldwide. Both artistic and financial satisfaction will be yours .

I am neutral and my intention/comments is only to bring Mohiniattam at par with other successful Indian classical dance forms Internationally. I have had the opportunity to discuss on these lines with some senior festival directors (who has been visiting India for 25 years) and my comments above came from my casual discussions with these veterans. They too felt the need to incorporate changes especially in music, pace of different items and to bring in new repertoire in other languages too (like Bharata Natyam dancers have added Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, Sufi etc. etc.) which will appeal to many. Let us don't restrict Mohiniattam to Kerala or South India. Of course there are successful dancers and teachers of Mohiniattam worldwide. But how many Mohiniattam dancers gets featured in International Dance festivals? In nutshell: My suggestions/Comments only refer to placing Mohiniattam at par with Bharata Natyam /Odissi in the International circuit.

Mythili Anoop

I do agree with some of the things Mr.Paul says. I have a few bones to pick as well. Firstly, as a student of Mohiniattam, and somebody who has been trying to write and think about it criticallyl, the one thing I wish there was more of is the freedom to innovate and experiment. I realize innovations can be extreme sometimes, so extreme that they collapse the system. In my view, for every aesthetic practice to be precisely that, a 'practice', there is a need for the simultaneous existence of a system of rules, and the scope for creativity, and there will be rule-breaking. Rrules are not sacrosanct, though people speak of them as if they are, but artificial. There has always been rule-breaking, and without challenging/ questioning of tradition, art will become a mere artifact, a relic of the past, and not something vital. I think we should be more tolerant, sympathetic, and supportive (or is that too much to ask for) of innovations. ALl innovations may not be successfull. But that is why we have learned critics and connoisseurs who have the right to evaluate. Secondly, there is a need to understand what institutions that offer degrees and diplomas seek to achieve. Every student of English literature does not go on to write a ward-winining book. But, I think, the minimum that can be expected is for the students to achieve a certain level of comprehension of the dance, for the classical dances require an informed/ trained audience. Others just miss the whole point, after the initial fascination with the costume! Such institutions are important, in my view, in creating a wider base of audiences for the classical arts. While, it has its own problems, it is also possible to overcome some of the drawbacks of the traditional forms of learning, through proper systematization and freer access to knowledge.

Aniruddha Varma I have a difference of opinion here. You may ignore this as an ordinary layman's perception. But, I must write my point here because I feel, the Mohiniattam dancers tend to be carried away by the seemingly perceived lack of interest that the audiences exhibit towards Mohiniattam as compared to the other dance forms like Bharathanatyam etc. In your enthusiasm to 'take this art forward' 'against all odds', if you decide to compromise on the quality of the performance and try to experiment more on the other important aspects, I am afraid such efforts could become counter-productive. I am of the stern opinion that people who come to appreciate a Mohiniattam performance do not come there to see what all changes/experiments you are going to try there. They may, in effect, try to see how far you have NOT deviated from the basics of the art and how systematic and correct your practice sessions were which can be judged from the performance itself. In essence, I would request the dancing students and maestros of this great art to continue to show more application and devotion to the practice sessions, which alone can take you and this great art to still greater heights of glory and fame.

Some Comments to this Topic.

Supriya Rajan 
Have put the comments in a doc for easy reading so that we can have more comments and try to have more clarity on the issues. Thank you. Would like to draw the attention of Dr Neena Prasad, Pallavi Krishnan Mad'me, Shyamala Surendran Mad'me,Smitha Rajan Mad'me, Vijaya Lakshmi, Gopika Varma Mad'me,Jayaprabha Menon mad'me, Sunanda Nair mad'me, Methil Devika Mad'em, and others to this.
Anu Samrat 
It is rather unfortunate that he says: " In the absence of proper standardization of its rudimentary parameters....". The Mohiniattam that I have been learning and have been exposed to, from my guru Smitha Rajan , has very clearly laid out parameters on all aspects of a dance form - there is no ambiguity. All this is as learnt from her grandmother Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiamma, someone who immersed herself in Mohiniattam.
Sapna Govindan 
maybe what he means is that the basic adavus differ in the different "banis" if we can call them that?
Anu Samrat 
Hmmm, then maybe it is time for the dancers to arrive at some agreement about the basic adavus! This will be very difficult, to put it mildly, but it must be done! There are so many different Bharatnatyam bANis for instance, but there seems to be some common adavus to all which are almost similar and unmistakably Bharatanatyam!
Sapna Govindan 
I feel that George Paul sir's comment on the incorporation of more nritta especially while performing in front of an uninitiated audience requires some thinking. Appreciation of satvika abhinaya needs more knowledge on the rasika's part and elaboration of such abhinaya requires maturity and learning on the dancer's part. But then again, some of the recent criticism on bharatanatyam seems to be that there is excessive stress on nritta to the detriment of abhinaya.
Appan Varma  
I am at loss to understand what is needed now.many want to make with more Nritya while i feel it should be left to its lasya form FULLY.Had seen most of the yester year artists who were all great in lasya. the facial expression and the sensua... Sapna Govindan ‎
Aniruddha Varma ji..I think we are running in circles now! What you just stated is what I meant when I said classical dances are not for everyone! Yes..Bharatanatyam and Odissi also bore some people...but what I have seen both inside and outside India is that more people are cognizant (and hence more open to) of these forms than mohiniyattam. That needs to change.
Priya Lasya 
nice presentation of views from sri george. those that speak of universities, that speak about need for institutes are quite apt. one may have a new dimension of thought with another perspective. summarizing on this issue for posting the views soon.
Aniruddha Varma
Sapna Govindan ji, I too share your concern that perhaps, we are running in circles. But, that will soon change when a clear direction will emerge soon with the participation of all your colleagues and well-wishers of this great art form. Here, you have embarked upon a very optimistic and positive journey. With some more active participation from the seniors also, I am sure that a clear path will be visible soon. But, first things first, I request you to impress upon all your colleagues in this great art not to compromise on the practice sessions at all and to go ahead in the 'sarani' which your Gurus have cleared for you.  


Supriya Rajan  
Aniruddha Varma sir, evaluation about the status of Mohiniyattam is a natural process in the propagation of the dance form. So, it doesnt mean Mohiniyattam is having any serious issues. It is like servicing ur car... it is mandatory whether or not there is any damage or problem and while servicing when the mechanics find out that certain things need to be done in order to have a better mileage and better performance u do take necessary actions. So similarly when critics and organisers and even audience give u a feedback that something need to be done to improve the aesthetic appeal of the dance form, as dancers we need to take necessary steps in the best possible way.  


Aniruddha Varma 
Well said, Supriya Rajan ji. I agree with you on this point. But my only request to all of you here is not to feel disappointed or dejected when you feel that rasika interest does not seem to grow as much as you would want. That will come naturally when the performances are world-class, no doubt about that. It is only with this in view that I am constantly advocating for stricter and most regular practice sessions.


Supriya Rajan 
‎Aniruddha Varma ji and i too agree with u on this point.. :)


Dev Pannavoor 
Very good discussion going on and its really nice to note the comments from the inmates of this group....These suggestions are precious and must be taken seriously....Would love to hear from many senior artists in this group also in this regard...But unfortunately as a listener, i feel that no senior artists are interested to make their points here....It should not be like that...:):)


Akhila Gopinath  
‎"In the absence of proper standardization of its rudimentary parameters, sky seems to be the limit for the variants. The need for summarizing the contributions of each individual is more felt nowadays than ever. Only an institution of authority (not an individual) can do this; and that institution is Kerala Kalamandalam". Am a student who associated with two Dance projects in the month of March 2012 – ’Suddha Nritta in Classical dance forms’ in Thrissur and ’60 Years of Mohiniyattam’ in Ramamangalam. While attending the workshops and seminars on Indian Classical Dances.., As a Mohiniyattom performer I too felt the lack of this “Standardization”. In such Lecture Demonstrations and all, all the artistes will surely demonstrate something about the basics of their art forms. In Bharathanatyam sessions, I noticed the exercises, Basic Adavus, Charis, and Repertoire items etc… in a special manner. I never had seen any conflicts among the Guru’s in these Basic things. Even if they posses different Banis like Pandanallur, Kalakshethra, Mysore etc..., Their Basic and Frames are Standardized in one line. (Am saying about the Basic Structure) I felt the strong roots among them. And that strong seed itself is the reason for the perfect development and creative production with in their parameters of those art forms…And they are creating their own individuality through the art forms. But here each individual are creating their own things and Naming as “MOHINIYATTOM” I never witnessed such uniformity in the Basic frame works of Mohiniyattom. In Mohiniyattom each and every Renowned Guru will teach their disciples with their own Parameters. These disciples are again teaching other ten.. …As I am a student, I really felt bad about this. We have to think about our art form…Not only about our personnel Fame...We need a generally accepted Standardization of the rudimentary parameters. Paul Sir always used to say ….”NEXT GEN” CAN DO THIS, IF THEY SIT AROUND A TABLE…., BECAUSE THEY HAVE A HEART TO ACCEPT THE POSITIVE QUALITIES & DO APPRECIATE EACH OTHER….AND ALSO TO RECTIFY.. Anu Samrat  


Akhila Gopinath
well said! That is the topic of this thread (and not about modifying things to suit the rasika or changing anything, for that matter). We will have to work out a way to standardize Mohiniattam adavus, to begin with. While we do not have to follow the path taken by, say, Odissi, or Bharatanatyam, or Kathakali, it might be worthwhile to look at how they have evovled at some common, basic characteristics which are unmistakably true for every bANi within that form.  
Priya Lasya 
i remember seeing here / somewhere about kathakali being made a show-piece for a few hours with all its popularity world-wide. now, that is something that pains (but true!). i have a question on this discussion- simple one- and also after i read lot of comments in different forum- "traditional kerala arts, lasyatarangini....can i ask?


Anu Samrat 
Sure, what is your question?


Akhila Gopinath 
‎Anu Samrat....we have to discuss about this...But here its being deviated to the performance level....
Anu Samrat  
‎Akhila Gopinath yes, I have been mulling over this - about the standardization of the basic parameters (adavus). I am only coming up with more questions than answers! How does a classical dance form evolve? What IS classical, first?! Who are the people who carry on the tradition? I would be interested to hear from Shyamhari Chakra on how the various bANis of Odissi have a common thread, as Odissi too has been revived rather recently. Priya Lasya 
when we speak of spreading the art, is it entirely due to our connection with that particular dance form ONLY? so those from Orissa pitch for odissi, those from ap for kuchipudi.., mohiniattam by those from kerala, so on.. ? all of us have adopted english :)


Sapna Govindan 
‎Priya Lasya not all of us who discuss here are from Kerala:) I think it is a personal preference rather than a regional issue.


Priya Lasya 
goes beyond (obviously personal preference)- say like - something very special in the connect that we make, perhaps.Sapna Govindan thank you for the quick response, that also makes certain things quite perceptible for the goal


Sapna Govindan  
Deviations are inherent in discussions..we only have to bring them back to the main thread. In fact, some deviations might open our minds to some things new. Anyway, anyone who seriously thinks about indian classical dance would come to thequestions Anu Samrat just asked. Different banis have been established by people who have done independent research into mohiniyattam especially because there was no established, traditional form of mohiniyattam at that time. What we see now is pretty recent indeed. So who will standardize and how? What can be included and what not? Like George Paul sir said, the established institutions and experts must think together.  


Anu Samrat ‎
Sapna Govindan, what is the material//who are the people available for such "research" as you have mentioned? Where does one begin? From one's guru? Where does the guru begin? Is it an unbroken tradition?


Appan Varma 
Sapna Govind,it may be a personal prefernce but the language base is very imp. to a non trained viewer.i enjoy B.natyam ,Kuchuppidi and Mohini Aattom better than a Odissi or Manipuri dnce as i follow the meaning of the song.


Priya Lasya ‎
Appan Varma exactly!


Anu Samrat ‎
Appan Varma ji, dance (and music) transcends language, in my opinion. The level of appreciation will depend on how well one understands the language, but no one can miss the beauty and depth of a well done dance or music piece.


Sapna Govindan
Appan Varma sir, Priya Lasya sorry about making a brief response albeit quick! Aren't preferences shaped by all these same factors - cultural, linguistic - but I also feel thet some preferences tend to happen despite these factors. I am a malayali who learnt and loves mohiniyattam but odissi is also a form I love watching and would have learnt in different circumstances. Maybe because of the lyrical quality of both forms...so i feel it is a complex interaction of different factors!  


Priya Lasya 
‎Sapna Govindan when we want an art form to spread- we need to look at more than "chance factors"


Supriya Rajan  
Appreciate all your effort to ponder over the topic. I think this is a topic which needs in-depth study. We may not be able to come to any conclusion nor any serious solution. But my feeling is that probably we can put down recommendations which the authorities can refer to among others. So let us steer the discussion in that direction, what say? let us go back to the comments already posted in the document (the main post of this discussion) and address each of the concerns mentioned in it.  


Sapna Govindan 
‎Priya Lasya sorry didnt quite understand that.Supriya Rajan you are quite a good moderator:)


Supriya Rajan
Thank you Sapna Govindan. I think Priya Lasya was trying to say that it is Keralites who take up Mohiniyattam because of the proximity to the dance form which happens by chance. But what she is probably saying is that we need to look at the dance form with an universal eye and not regional eye. perhaps... !!! is that so Priya Lasya??


Aniruddha Varma 
I liked your point here, Supriya Rajan ji. When the discussions tend to go hither and thither, somebody should be available here like a Traffic Police to give the thread a logical direction. You are doing that and please do keep it up.


Aniruddha Varma ‎
Supriya Rajan ji, I meant your comment just above this one, beginning with "Appreciate all your effort to ponder over the topic..............."


Supriya Rajan  
Now coming to the discussion the first point that Prof GS Paul sir said is the dominance of Abhinaya in realtion to Nritta aspect in Mohiniyattam recitals. I think here each dancer can address to this issue themselves by taking care of the right mixture. Personally i feel the nritta aspect of Mohiniyattam is a strength which we can take leverage upon. Because the movements are so graceful and beautiful. I think we can do wonders with the nritta aspect if we give more attention and prominence. I think i need to mention, the youth icon of Mohiniyattam; Vijaya Lakshmi for her work on Movements. 
Sapna Govindan, may i ask u to take us to the next issue?  


Aniruddha Varma 
Come on, you have an audience waiting.


Supriya Rajan 
Ha ha ha Aniruddha Varma ji.


Aniruddha Varma ‎
Supriya Rajan ji, I am very serious. I did not post this here as a joke at all. I am eagerly waiting to see and read the next posts.


Supriya Rajan 
‎Sapna Govindan, standardisation of the structure and other major parameters?


Supriya Rajan 
Apart from basic exercises, adavus, maybe we need to consider the music, format of a recital etc.... !!!


Supriya Rajan 
Let us wait for some comments on this before we move to the next topic.


Sapna Govindan 
Sorry folks..will catch up soon with this discussion. Just too held up at work right now! Look forward to all the input.
Rajan G Srikrishnan 
there is this book 'triveni' published in 1969... with information on Mohiniattam. I lost this old book. If you have a copy, please scan and upload relevant portions...


Supriya Rajan ‎Mani G Marar.......!!!


Sapna Govindan 
‎Supriya Rajan on the first point, the nrtta aspect of mohiniyattam is probably underutilized. It is so beautiful! It is the nrtta which creates the immedietely obvious character of a dance form, even though abhinaya aspects also vary. That brings us to standardization starting with the nrtta ( exercises,adavus) and moving on to music , repertoire etc. An overarching identity is necessary but how feasible is it to accomplish? Sapna Govindan 
I wish we had input from experts..!


Deepa Chakravarthy 
People just don't expect everything is happen immediately - everything is being heard - everyone is thinking - but for any change to happen you must wait. Patience they say is the mother of all virtues :-) Give time! Sleep on it, as they say!


Appan Varma 
these days Kshemavathy is not seen in the T'bady temple.(may be because of the difference in timing) shall ask her on the Nritya aspect and post as soon as i meet her.


Narayanan Mothalakottam 
As Rajan G Srikrishnan says "Let us don't restrict Mohiniattam to Kerala or South India. Of course there are successful dancers and teachers of Mohiniattam worldwide". I agree, but how many non-Indians are learning mohiniyattam worldwide? Most of the students learning from them belong to South India, I heard so. His another point was "But how many Mohiniattam dancers gets featured in International Dance festivals?" there come the requirement of marketing. Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak etc. are all marketed well. In the international dance fest and all the organisers want only "some" Indian classical dance form, where better marketed dance get its place. I have a feeling that even Kalamandalam could not market mohiniyattam to the position as it really desires, probably under the influence of Kathakali.


Appan Varma 
Kalamandalam did not market Mohini Aattam as it grew strongl only after the institute developed Kathakali troupes.Sponsors were also rare for Mohinaattom as against for Bharatha Natyam .


Narayanan Mothalakottam 
Now a days Institutions / University are offering courses only to have the students Degrees.. Its the same with any subject. Very rarely we find students excel in their respective fields because of the Universities, so the case with arts also weather it is music, dance etc. etc. Again Institutions like Kalamandalam could offer much more in this field at least opening regional centres, as a 1st step in Kerala, then all over India. We can't expect anything more from Universities & other institutions from offering BA, MA or even PhDs and not much from the students from those institutions as well.


Appan Varma 
Muthgalakkoottam is right.Let us ask the govt and Kalamndalam uni. to start centres at the three music accadamies of TVM.TPNA and Palakkad early


Narayanan Mothalakottam ‎
Mythili Anoop, First the students should have strong base, as its the case of any art or science. if they have strong foundation then further structures could be built over that. If the foundation is not very strong it could collapse at any point of time. That's what the innovations or interpretations could face the challenge. Another chance that unless the persons know the boundaries within the foundation exactly, there is always a chance for over stepping, which could leads to fall... Where exactly Aniruddha Varma ji also raised concern. If the base is not very strong and the boundaries are well defined & known, any improvisation could lead to failures. Where dedication, devotion, application whatever you call, could come for a support as required. Aniruddha Varma I am really glad to see that Mohiniattam has begun to transcend the barriers of language, boundaries of nations, and even those of the seven seas. A recent post in this group from a few Japanese dancers who feel proud to be Mohiniattam dancers has really filled my mind. If Japanese dancers could find an interest in this great art which is now considered more of Kerala origin than anything else, I am sure that the time is not far when this would be appreciated throughout India at least. For this, concerted action from our all our talented artistes is a must.



No comments:

Post a Comment