Friday, September 09, 2011

TAP (Tyagaraja Aradhana Programme?) - 2011

Following the Chennai TAP on 2nd Jan, the BITSian version of it conducted by Raag was on the cards. It is indeed intriguing to think of Saint Tyagaraja’s compositions gaining audience in this small North Indian village of Rajasthan. This year’s iteration of the event began with much promise as a very enthusiastic bunch of people turned up for registration. Having signed up for what would be close to two weeks of daily practice sessions with six lead vocalists, 3 guys and an equal number of girls, the sessions began with the first piece: Jagadanandakaraka in ragam Nattai. The group soon settled into their singing voices and disparities of pitch were sorted out. As January drew to a close the progress made was remarkable: people with no previous experience in Carnatic music were able to pull off decent renditions of Saint Tyagaraja’s master pieces. The practice sessions usually scheduled after dinner had good attendance with people staying enthused for the full one hour. ‘Guruji’ Deepak was also delighted to be part of many engaging discussions one of which was based on a most pertinent question: At what speed had Tyagaraja himself sung these kritis??? This and other such seemingly innocent discussions on music and other topics with a surprisingly fresh outlook defined the practice sessions.
The program held on the morning of Founder’s day (8th February, 2011 this year) usually ends up having a certain magical quality to it. It was no different this year with a serene and soulful ambience being setup in the good old Room No. 2219. The songs rendered included Sri Ganapatini in praise of Lord Vigneshwara, The remover of obstacles, Guruleka etuvanti in praise of Guru, The Teacher, followed by the Five Pancharatna Kritis of Tyagaraja. Such Aradhanas are held in many places in India during this time of year in a tradition that dates back more than a century. It is a testament to the treasure trove of musical and lyrical beauty in each of Tyagaraja’s krithis that each such Aradhana succeeds without much effort in moving the performer and listeners to a different spiritual plane. As a tradition then, this celebration transcends a mere formality and we hope that TAP is a great example of the fact that with proper initiation Carnatic classical music too is very accessible to a lay audience and also to an amateur performer. Here is to the next iteration being even bigger and grander!!


The usual thought of depicting something different, something contemporary was in many people’s mind and mails started flourishing as usual from every corner. The idea of Meghdootam initially sparked off, but doing another Kalidasa story having a sort of similar plot as the Abhignanashakuntalam was not an idea worth taking forward. Then came the ideas for contemporary themes like the sister theme which was conceived a few years back, evolution of man and story of carbon atom (However carbon needed to lose some ‘electrons’ if the dancers decided to do it, so we decided not to mess with Dr. Mendeleev!). Once Deepak suggested the Ghanashyaam theme, a major decision had to be made between a whole theme-based show with this theme or following the NR-2k10 format and depicting Seasons for the contemporary part. The latter won.

For the auditions last sem, there were four to five people who turned up. Finally Bharat, the carnatic singer from Bangalore and ‘Yenna Panra’ (though his real surname is Yanamandra) Saicharan, a Mridangam player from Guntur entered the club. The trip to BGM and performance over there had warmed up (Though the weather was very bitterly cold) the musicians as well for the season, thanks to Pratik as part of the BGM cultural team. Though we were one short of the number of dance styles we had for NR, the excitement was no less compared to it.

We initially started out with an ambitious and loooooog list of pieces to be performed, but a couple of them had to be chucked later on due to time constraints for practice as well as for the show. January saw vigorous practice sessions for the songs for individual dance styles and towards the end of the month ‘Seasons’ started.

Four seasons were planned to be depicted. The scorching summer, the pleasant monsoon, the lazy winter and the joyful spring were aptly choreographed and composed with brilliant expressions and vibrant music. Though test series and other factors posed some hindrance, late night practice sessions till1am and morning sessions from 9am during holidays compensated for them. Sangamam show date was also changed quite a few number of times and was finally held on 6th March. Reminders, pep talks, publicity and other things added to the organizational dimensions of the event. In the end, we enjoyed the fruits of our hard work, which included some good choreography, music composition and, more than all that, sincerity and dedication.

The pieces performed in order:

Alarippu, meaning ‘flowering bud’, is traditionally the first piece that a Bharatanatyam dancer learns and performs. Based on the graceful movement of the hands, eyes, and the neck, it is entirely nritta-oriented, containing purely rhythm based steps. This dance ritual is usually accompanied by oral percussion and mridangam. The Bharatanatyam performance was a Chatusra Alarippu, which is set to a 4-beats cycle.

Dancers: Aishu, Manji, J, Sush
Musicians: Deepak, Ajay, Judee, Pras

Mata Saraswati
This piece invokes Goddess Saraswati (aptly with the raag Saraswati), who is the embodiment and epitome of knowledge, intellect and beauty. Interspersed with swara combinations with related dance steps, this piece was predominantly of a Nritya style. Interestingly this was a fresh new concept of Bharatanatyam danced for Hindustani music set to Char Taal

Dancers: Aishu, J, Sush
Musicians: Anubha, Ajay, Aayush, Sagar

Thaye Yashoda
Thaye Yashoda is a song wherein the gopikas describe to mother yashoda, the antics of her son Gopalakrishna. In the song, the gopikas narrate certain incidents that had occurred and complain to Yashoda. Thaye Yashodha in Todi ragam set to adi talam was presented in Kuchipudi style of dance.

Dancers: Manji, Ninja
Musicians: Preethi, Uthra, Ajay, Saicharan, Deepak

Pallavi is a pure dance piece in which a raga is elaborated through eye movements, body postures & intricate footwork. Both the dance and the music evolve in complexity as the dancer traces multiple patterns in space, interpreting the music dexterously in the multi-layered dimensions of taal (beat) and laya (rhythm). This pallavi set to raag Kalyan was performed in Odissi.

Dancers: Kuheli
Musicians: Yudhajeet, Deepak, Ajay, Isha, Aditya

Shiva Kama Sundari
This composition is in praise of goddess Parvati, who personifies beauty in its purest form. The poet addresses Devi as the pretty Consort of Lord Shiva and tells her that it is her burden to save him as he struggles through life, unable to see the end of this circle of births. Shiva Kama Sundari in ragam Jagan Mohini set to Roopaka Talam was performed in Bharatanatyam.

Dancers: Aishu, Manji
Musicians: Preethi, Neeraja, Ajay, Deepak, Pras

Thillana is the concluding piece of a Bharatanatyam performance. It means “Joyful” dancing. Happiness, joy and ecstasy are the feelings that are given expression to, in a thillana. This is a nritta piece, in which the brilliance of a Raga is reflected in the complex and vibrant footwork and the captivating poses of the dancer.

The dancers performed a Thillana in a Ragamalika, meaning a garland of ragas. It includes eight ragas namely Hamsanandi, Brindavani, Madhuvanthi, Hindolam, Mohanam, Vasanta, Kaanada and Kalyani. Every thillana is usually sung in praise of a particular deity. This thillana was in praise of Lord Siva.

Dancers: Aishu, Manji, J, Sush
Musicians: Deepak, Ajay, Preethi, Ashwin, Saicharan, Pras

The Music Filler
The intention of the music filler was to give dancers some time to get ready for the next part, which was the seasons. There was a musical performance with veena and violin accompanied by mridangam. The first song that was performed was a varnam composed by violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman in Nalinakanthi ragam set to adi talam. The second song was a thillana, which is yet another composition by Lalgudi Jayaraman in ragam Dwijavanti set to adi talam.

In the next part of our show was depicted, the myriad hues and multiple facets of the four seasons. This yearly cycle that we witness on earth, has left many an impact on our classical art forms. The dancers attempted to portray the brilliant colours and tempestuous forces which characterize the seasons as well as the evocative emotions which they spawn within each of us.

Our Sun, the immense source of energy is responsible for life on earth and is also the chief architect of seasonal change. Thus, we began with summer, the season which belongs to the sun.

Invoking the Sun God through a multitude of names, Surya, Ravi, Mitra, Bhanu, Aaditya and Bhaskara, we witness the everyday morning spectacle as the Sun rises to greet a brand new day. The rays, gentle at first, soon spread to all corners and light up the day.

As the sun rises, two people come outdoors to enjoy a bright sunny morning. The day wears on and by afternoon the Sun’s rays have reached their peak intensity. Soon the pleasure of sun-bathing changes to irritation at the unbearable heat. The discomfort causes tempers to rises as temperatures increase even further. Not much later, the life giving forces of the sun’s rays turn destructive as trees, animals and people fall victim to the intense heat and an inevitable drought sets in.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ashwin, Ajay, Preethi, Deepak, Pras, Hemant, Isha

The scorching heat of the summer has left behind an aftermath of death and destruction. River beds are dry, plants withered, people are desperately in need of water. Two people pondering this sad scene, however notice the dark clouds gathering the distance and the sound of rolling thunder fills the air. The sky soon splits open and the first drops of rain fall to the ground, rejuvenating the whole world. The monsoon arrives, bringing with it the calmness and respite from the heat, which the trees enjoy silently. In the forest, all creatures , the majestic elephants, the beautiful peacocks, and the light-footed deers, celebrate the arrival of the rains. The dancers danced with joy, as nature itself responds to the revival of the beauty of the earth.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ajay, Hemant, Isha, Aayush, Deepak, Sagar

The rainy season ends with the onset of the winter. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, temperatures fall and cold breezes and fog set in. The sky turns dark and the sun has lost its penetrating power thus bringing with it a mood of gloom, sloth and desolation.

This mood does not last forever in the hearts of people as they soon realize the joys that winter brings with it. Be it gathering around a warm, crackling wood burning fire or indulging in a fun snow fight, people soon start enjoying this season of cold.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ajay, Preethi, Isha, Deepak

Spring is the season when the earth blossoms back to life in a brilliant display of colours and hues. The sun shines pleasantly bright, green shoots peep from the ground, and the world begins to wake up after its winter slumbers.

The dancers depicted this season's effect on the glum spirits of a girl who along with her friends revels in the inviting outdoors with birds chirping and plentiful fruits on the trees. The depiction included the dancers dancing to a folkish tune signifying the joy and energy that spring creates within us.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ajay, Preethi, Hemant, Isha, Judee, Deepak


Post written and edited by Ajay and Deepak.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NR 2010 - 4th October

Let's do something different! That was the line that kept repeating in my head since the summer holidays. Bucketful of whacky ideas mailed (we even considered a classical nagin dance! :P), gigs of videos watched, hours of pondering and discussing and finally we decided on a contemporary main piece for NR. The theme for the piece was chosen as "Navarasa". A pretty tried and tested theme, we knew there was ample of scope for every artist. The challenge was to make it contemporary. And this challenge just got a tad tougher with the entry of 11 new members into the club skilled in arts as diverse as the organisms inhabiting this planet. We got two flautists, a sitarist, a tablist, a pot-ist, a mridangist, three vocalists (sorry five, one guy, one girl and second girl=3 guys :P), an odissi dancer and a bharatanatyam dancer. Enthusiasm and excitement in the club simply bloated up like a huge balloon (Shravan already had chosen his sem-partner!).

We embarked on the two month journey to NR - dancers started choreographing the dance and the musicians started composing music for the various emotions. Four different dance styles - the refined Bharata Natyam, the graceful Kathak, the elegant Odissi and the vibrant Kuchipudi... And to incorporate them all into one piece, maintaining the overall coordination and synchronization was an exhilarating challenge. Hark, we were excited about it! Focus was on simple uniform steps to achieve an overall rhythm, rather than putting in complicated steps and expression.

Hectic acads schedules began to take their toll on us. Psenti-semites worrying about jobs, and EEE-ites worrying about CDCs (rest all didn't give much of a damn tho ;P). Doubts arose on feasibility of such a massive piece. Musicians were already on their way to finishing music composition for the navarasa, it would not have been fair to guss their efforts like that. And there was no back up plan. We had to stick to Navarasa. Slowly but steadily we choreographed rasa after rasa. The enthu returned when it all began to take shape. New costumes were designed.

Last few days saw a flurry of mails sent of daily TODOs (reminded of Dipak's ASAPs), feverish practices, finalizing compering scripts, planning lights and teaching them to freshers. The run-throughs were a mix of work and fun, acads all forgotten. Wish, it was possible to forget them altogether and have every practice in audi only :P

Finally curtains were raised on 4th October to present NR 2k10 to a fairly decent size of audience. The margam for the evening was as follows:

1. Bho Shambho
Dancer: Aastha, Sushmitha
Musicians: Riddhi, Yudhajeet, Ajay, Hari
A dance depicting Lord Shiva's energetic Ananda Tandav as His devotee Nandi looks stunned and dances in His praise as well. The dance was full of picturesque poses, strong steps set to bold mridangam with a beautiful rendition by the singers.

2. Kuchipudi
Dancer: Manjeera
Musicians: Preethi, Neeraja, Shravan, Ajay, Hari
The piece started with graceful Kuchipudi steps praising Lord Krishna and culminated in a fantastic plate dance which had the audience clapping and cheering like mad. The rendition of the song reminded of typical temple mornings with chanting of prayers and ringing of bells.

3. Odissi
Dancer: Kuheli
Musicians: Yudhajeet, Anubha, Sagar, Ajay
The best thing about the piece was that the team composed of all first yearites except Ajay, the mentor. While Kuheli was the perfect epitome of Odissi grace and vigour, the musicians made the piece a perfect present to the audience with their varied swaras and beats.

4. Enna thavam
Dancer: Namrata Raman
Musicians: Preethi, Ajay, Shravan, Hari
Nammu was in her best mommy role and devotee role in the piece. The devotee asks Yashoda, what good deeds have you done so as to have the Lord Himself call you His mother. The sanchari on Krishna's makhan chori was the most lovable part of the piece.

5. Thillana
Dancer: Aishwarya, Aastha, Manjeera, Namrata Raman
Musicians: Preethi, Ajay, Shravan, Hari
As usual, the fast and fun piece of the concert is the thillana. This time's thillana just became too memorable as the audience got into the habit of treating us with applauses for every formations made on stage :P

6. Kathak
Dancer: Namrata Jain
Musicians: Riddhi, Yudhajeet, Anurup Mitra sir (yeah profs also want to play with us now!)
The graceful twists and turns, the subtle expressions, the deft movements of the hands and fingers, the feet never missing a beat and the 28 chakkars.. With the soft music and perfect tabla rendition by sir the piece ended successfully the portrayal of all dance styles individually.

7. Navarasa
Dancer: everyone
Musician: everyone
As mentioned before, the piece brought together all the dance styles and music styles together on the stage. The painful Karunya, the wondrous Adbuta, the beauty and love of Shringara, the fearsome Bhayanak, the disgusting Bibhatsa, the mirthful Hasya, the angerful Krodha, the valorous Veer and the peaceful Shanta. Use of different coloured lights and coloured dupattas for some of the rasas helped to emphasize their meanings. Bhayanak rasa and Adbhuta turned out to be audience favourites :)

All in all, the concert was a grand success. The contemporary style and the novel dresses were greatly welcomed by the audience. After the usual post concert crazy clicking mania, we went laughing and singing to sac. Pratik came down to attend the concert and it was great to have him that day. Kudos to Ajay for his innovative music compositions and musicians for rendering it all so well, and to dancers for their beautiful choreography. Kudos to juniors for their king-sized enthu, to the core batch for all their planning and organizing, to the psenti-semites for their last one performance, to the club.. for sticking together and making it happen... I was just smiling, for my psenti concert in Raag had just come to an end. My best one in the four years, and most memorable one too. Acknowledgments were being discussed, but those funds are for another time....


Monday, May 10, 2010

Farewell Again - 26th April 2010 !

Pratik, Chandu, Shravan

Farewell... one of the dreadest stuff for a psentisemite and also one of the obvious after you enter your college.. so it be.. Welcome to the highlights coverage of Raag Farewell - Monday, 26th April 2010.

Earlier going to the flash back some 4 years back, we had 15-20 people taking farewells in 2 semesters and sadly the total strength of club is around 20 people now.. and these reducing numbers have also affected the number of people taking farewells each semester and this time it was 3 Ragamalikan's - Shravan S, Chandrasekar Srinivasan and Pratik Maheshwari.

Farewell started off with a mime in SAC Room No. 8 - Raag Room with juniors mimicing these three seniors using all the possible funds of 4 years which they had witnessed or heard. Be it Shravan's mridangam enthu, Chandu's Bhaiya crash or Pratik's Saroja. It was entertaining and fun. Hats off to all the juniors with special thanks to Ajay and Riddhi for their acting. :)

After this we were back to our trademark place of farewell, Vijay's @ C'not.
Proceedings started soon with writeups of 3 psentis.

First was the enthu boy - Shravan. People had lot to say about him. This guy has done almost all possible irrelevant and useless stuffs while here @ BITS besides being a cracker at acads and extra-curriculars (swimming, violin, boozing :D, etc). His writeup talked about his crushes, his enthu, his fooding habits, his acads, his violin and him ! Ajay read his writeup and surely Shravan hid his face at times in between claiming to have not done something worth mentioning (pun intended). People will surely miss his all time enthu for any damn thing and also his first year mischiefs and misdeeds :D. His secretariship has been well aclaimed by all who have seen him in his 3rd year and his helping hand even in his 4th year would be surely a point worth an applause. The ability to catch up with both light and classical music with such an ease has been one of his true strengths throughout and this we hope would continue even after this.
After all the masalas and papads and other stuffs he had his part of speaking up and Shravan mentioned all the points which he felt would be crucial to Raag in coming years. Although Shravan is coming back next sem, he took his farewell with his batchmates. Highlights of his speak up was bonding between the club members. He surely has worked a lot on this and we hope to see the same enthu and bonding to carry on in Raag.

Here's to Shravan - The Violinist ! :)

Second in the queue was - Pratik (Its diificult to blog about myself but i'll stick to the writeup for this without adding spices to it :D). Pratik along with Hardik was the first group in Raag to kick off the hindustani proceedings in Raag and he was commended for able to building the platform for the coming talent in Raag on hindustani side. Few points worth mentioning about his writeup was his innovation and stress on publicity. Writeup also talked about his love for Hindi and HPC related work. Blogging which has been his passion was also appreciated.
He also got his time to speak up and he stressed mostly on innovating even with lesser strength and try to increase the numbers both in the club and our audience.

Here's to Me - A Ragamalikan ! :)

And the grand finale ended at - Chandu. Chandu entered the club in his 2-1 and since then had been an integral part of the club and all its events and enthus. His imagination and poster & backdrop work for NR and Sangamam was a point not to be missed out for sure. One important point mentioned was about his rise from his 2-1 to 4-2 with his mridangam skills. His dedication to learning despite a very tight schedule (Chandu was involved in a hell lot of things at a time throughout his BITSian life..applause :) ) was really appreciable. Chandu was the 3rd person whom I saw was given the award of - "Time Management God" which he displayed wonderfully in his BITSian life. Not to forget, his different style of saying - "YES MAAAAN" is still tinkling on everyone's lips :D.
Chandu when spoke, spoke about the overall development of club through personal inputs of using skills to the max.

Here's to Chandu - The Maaaan ! :D

Apart from the club writeups we also had 2 other writeups. First one was from our beloved AP who wrote all wonderful stuffs about all the psentisemites and made them feel proud. A sincere thanks to AP for sparing his valuable time (but of what i've heard.. he's vella as of now :D ) and penning down few lines for each of the psentisemites. Your words will has always and will always be important to all of us as you have been a constant source of inspiration. Thanks :)

Then came a writeup from a yaar of all the psentis - Mr. Vamsi who has taken his farewell the previous sem. Of what I remember, after his farewell he told me that he would not spare any of us (batchmates) and take out the revenge in our writeup. But I am happy to say that nothing as such happened and the words which Vamsi's pen uttered were a bunch of delicate flowers for his lovely batchmates with whom he has spent 4 wonderful years. A huge applause for you too for writing for us and remembering. :)

After this it was the usual snap session which wasn't as long as it used to be with all those funds of A1, B1, A3, A7, etc, etc. But all the psentis really had a wonderful time and are really thankful to all you wonderful juniors who gave us a super farewell right from the invitations.

Now what we carry with us are sweet memories captured in those songs, those instruments, those dances, that raag room, that SAC, that 2219, that 2220, that Audi, that T-Lawns, that ANC, that Cnot, that Khetri, those trips, those endless pics, those funny videos, those useless funds, those innovative compositions, those group dances and those teary farewells.

One common thread which kept us bound was music and it'll ever be this. No matter where we are, will be. But we'll always be close - Thanks to Music, a gift conferred upon us by Him.

Just to say at last:
Here's to Raag - The Club !

(I guess that this is going to be my psenti-post on this blog. I hope you enjoyed my version of blogging and other will surely come down to keep us updated about Raag forever)