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‘Maharaas: A Celebration of Life

The Alaknanda Institute of Performing Arts (AIPA) presented their 12th Spirit of Dance Festival with ‘Maharaas’ a Celebration of Life’ on the occasion of the ‘Amrit Mahotsav’ by the Ministry of Culture to celebrate 75 years of India’s independence. Conceptualised by Nrityashri Alaknanda who is an ICCR empaneled Kathak danseuse and teacher, a State icon of the election commission & the brand ambassador of Swachchha Bharat Abhiyan; the event pulsating with vibrant vigour enthralled the audience on 7th of May at the Kamani Auditorium, Delhi.l

The concept of ‘Maharaas’ is crystallized in the following poem written by Alaknanda herself and recited before the program –

“Hey Krishna, my love doesn’t restrict you.

You are free from my love.

I find you in everything around me.

The nature is you Hey Krishna.

The child is you Hey Krishna.

The rain is you Hey Krishna.

You are the universe.

So why should I restrict my love to your physical being?

I see you in everything, so my love is for all.

Love is Mukti (freedom).

Love is Bhakti.

I don’t need you to Love You, Hey Krishna!”

The poetess didn’t need a Krishna to love Him but the danseuse did, and she had four of them in different dance styles performed by Vinod Kevin Bachan in Odissi, Suhail Bhan in Bharatanatyam, Rajesh Sai Babu in Chhau and Sunny Sisodiya in Kathak along with the young dancers of Alaknanda Kathak and Alaknanda Sanskriti troupe, that comprised and involved all her students of different age groups to make the evening magnificent with their flawless fare providing colourful grandeur to Maharaas!

Tributes with short videos were paid to the departed souls snatched by the cruel COVID, before the evening opened with “Adharam Madhuram” invoking Krishna through the Ballabhacharya Pada. The seamless production with group choreographies by Alaknanda went on smoothly with no interruptions of even announcements in between to break the flow of mesmerizing music and dance sequences building up the crescendo for Maharaas. The group choreographies on “Bhor bhai baaji madhur Muraliya”, the traditional Teentaal Bandish in raag Kedar  “Kanha re Nanda-Nandan”, the Tagore song “Sajani-Sajani Raadhika” providing the lilting gait of Dadra for Sawaal-Jawaab sequences between two group of dancers, the popular composition of Late Pt. Birju Maharaj recorded in his own voice “Shri Krishna nirtat thung-thunga…”, Hori Khelat hain Girdhari with the recorded vocal and Padhant by Pt.  Birju Maharaj himself were all absolutely mesmerizing till the item with the traditional Nritta aspect of Kathak imaginatively interspersed with Tode-Tukde, Paran etc was unfortunately presented with the fusion music of the Agam band with its out of tune Guitar which marred the whole effect. Luckily the Bandishi Thumri in Bageshree “Maga rokat Kaanha Girdhari” and a Solo by Alaknanda brought back the desired tunefulness with the popular Maand by Kailash Kher “Aaj more Piya ghar aayenge” set to the Chaanchar Theka of Deepchandi Taal where she was joined by the entire group of dancers with “Aaj raat raas manao ri sab mil..”, which was the perfect preface for the actual Maharaas showcased in the latter half of the evening. The text and music of all these items were conceptualized by Gauri Divakar, the ace Kathak dancer/choreographer.

‘Maharaas’ opened with the Odissi dancer Kevin Bachan as Krishna dancing to the Meera Bhajan “barse badariya sawan ki…” choreographed by his Odissi Guru Ranjana Gauhar. Next came the Tillana in Brindavani Sarang lead by Suhail Bhan with electrifying energy with “Murali ki dhun suni Radhika’ in raag Hamir followed by the Chhau group of male dancers led by Rakesh Sai Babu dancing to the tune of the popular song ‘Govinda Ala re” where Alaknanda as Radha enters with six female dancers as Gopis performing the traditional Nritta of Kathak on Chhau drums. Then entered Sunny Sisodiya the Kathak Krishna with his chiselled Chakkars (pirouettes) and Alaknanda danced to the Thumri “Abke Sawan ghar aaja…” and  “Eri Sakhi more Piya Ghar aaye” depicting Viyog and Sanyog Shringar respectively, interspersed with the Gat-Nikas and the Gat Bhaavs like the Ghoonghat ki Gat & Rukhsaar ki Gat, danced with the delicate grace and sophistication on Lucknow Gharana.

Then came the concluding song “Maharaas rachat Kunj-Bihaari’ in raag Adana, set to Sultaal where all the four Krishnas in their respective dance forms and all the Gopis with Radha reached the evening to its ecstatic climax. One had seen all the four male dancers (enacting Krishna this evening), excelling in their individual dance performances earlier also but what made all the difference in Maharaas was the Bhakti-soaked passionate love of Radha for each one of them that brought alive the innate grace of Alaknanda who despite being older than all these Krishnas and physically on the plump side; was a naturally gifted and instinctively creative artiste by temperament who could carry the audience to the ultimate bliss with the ecstasy and divinity of Maharaas leaving them spellbound.

No doubt Alaknanda humbly stated it to be a combined effort but the credit goes to her for picking up the right people and real professionals whether it was the anchoring of the show by Deepak Sar, music by Samiullah Khan and Vijay Parihar, photography by Sangeeta Das Banerjee and Ashish Banerjee or the light designing by Sandeep Dutta. The conspicuous presence of Gauri Diwakar was visible not only at the venue but also in the finishing touches of the impeccable synchronization and captivating choreography of the group dances too. Alaknanda Kathak was also thankful to the Brahmananda Public School for all the support.

2 thoughts on “‘Maharaas: A Celebration of Life”

  1. What a beautiful writeup of the production “Maharaas”… Such detailed description, could almost relive the experience of it through the words! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it just the way we enjoyed being part of this epic production!
    Thank you Manjari Ji! 🙏❤️

    Sangeeta Das Banerjee
    [One frame story]


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