Usha R.K., The Director of Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre (JNCC), Moscow; a reputed Bharatanatyam dancer and a scholar for more than four decades, who has made it her life’s mission to promote the Classical dances of India, has a feather in her cap, even during these trying times, when the entire world is in a lockdown mode. Her creativity is boundless. Therefore when Innee Singh and Shraddha Singh shared their interests with her, she had her super-brain working overtime to produce a rich tapestry which had the possibility of going viral globally.
Shraddha Singh, who required a lock-down to unlock her writing skills, came to fame with her poem: “Denge hum ek dusre ke saath /aur ho kar rahenge hum Azad…”- “We will give each other our company /and stay free forever.”- so goes the poem. A poignant but happy strain followed throughout the poem. But, she says ‘Zindagi’ is very stubborn, for some time we will need to maintain social distancing. Our elders, proclaims the poet, spoke the truth when they said that physical distancing must be maintained. It is necessary.
Usha too reminisced about what her elders had to say about keeping people at arm’s length both metaphorically and physically. Our tradition of ‘Namaste’, she said also is scientific in the sense of not having to touch anyone even while greeting people.
That, well-known photographer, Innee Singh is also a composer of high calibre was indeed revealing. He composed the music of the poem, which became an instant hit, for its sheer power and beauty. The duo made videos-thank the lord for our technological advancement-of it. Once the video of the local dancers in Delhi- Vrinda Chaddha, Arushi Mudgal, Vidha Lal, Dakshina Vaidyanathan, Divya Ravi and Divya Goswami-was sent to Usha R.K., she set the ball rolling.
Male dancers of Bangalore jumped to the idea. Bangalore is Usha’s home-town and so it is her comfort zone. The eagerness of the dancers she spoke to made videos in the audio track given to them of what they performed individually, in their homes and passed it onto Usha. Pavitra Bhatt, Mithun Shyam, Parshvanath Upadhye, Murali Mohan, Kalvakala Surya Rao and Sathyanaryana Raju were powerful dancers bringing alive the many-layered meaning of the lines of the poem, through their abhinaya. The net result was unimaginably and unpredictably marvellous. With the huge following that these male dancers had, they secured more than 4000 views.
To take the idea from city to city dawned on Usha and soon the dancers of Mumbai selected their locations in the isolation of their own homes as the pandemic Corona Virus has carved out for each and every one of us globally.
Mumbai dancers Swapnakalpa Dasgupta, Amrita Lahiri, Sandip Soparkar, Prachi Save Saathi, Prachee Shah and Sujatha Nair took up the cue and walked into the hearts of the viewers.
“Hum hai sath” danced Arundhati Patwardhan, Nayantara Parpiya, Parimal Phadke, Sraboni Basu , Neha Muthiyan and Rasika Gumaste from Pune.
What a spectacular way of seeing dancers from different parts of the world performing for rasikas -again seen by people in the comfort of their favourite seat of their homes.
It turned out that no city wanted to be left out. The world had really and truly turned out to be on big stage stringing performers in one big garland. Art was there for art’s sake. Soon the music track reached Pune, Hyderabad, Moscow one after the other. From Moscow, this reviewer saw Asish Kathak, Padma Ragini, Irina Komissarova, Elenore Margorina, Leena Goel and Mercy Grace.
The more the music track is circulating more are the dancers of the world following it like the music of the Pied Piper. Innee Singh of Delhi has turned into the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
It has virtually turned into a movement. Its popularity has roused dancers from the U.S. as well.
Prateeksha Kasi, Bhavana Reddy, Vishal Krishna, Sanjukta Sinha, Gauri Diwakar used their Kuchipudi and Kathak media to express eloquently the idea of the song with their understanding of Indian aesthetics. An inconceivably beautiful bunch of well-groomed dancers.
Indian dance forms are so varied and so beautiful. Dancers used the bird motif, again and again, to show, “Hum rahenge Azad”. Nature was also featured in all presentations.
Poornima Gururaja, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Soundarya Srivatsa and Sharmila Mukerjee-all from Bangalore- brought to life the beautiful poem brought to them in the voice of Ravindra Pant.
Yet in another video, there is the promise of seeing star performers of Indian dance like Deepika Reddy, Rama Vaidyanathan, Gopika Varma, Uma Dogra and Sujata Mohapatra.
To quote Usha, “Who said classical arts have no future?” No amount of tragedy can wither the arts. Art will live on no matter how changed the circumstances are.
This is not the end of the show, it is only the tip of the ice-berg and it holds unending promises.