Mangaldas tells the story of Kathak
The occasion was Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam's birth anniversary.
The event was a recital of Kathak Dance by Aditi Mangaldas on January
31. The venue was Bishop's College auditorium by the breezy borders
of the Beira Lake.
hails from India and is a versatile exponent of the Kathak dance
form. Kathak is the classical dance form of Northern India - Lucknow
and Jaipur in particular were flourishing centres of this ancient
tradition. What Bharatha Natyam is to South India, Kathak is to
the North. If Bharatha Natyam is replete with angled symmetry and
chiselled form and precision, Kathak wallows in intensely charged
cycles of ebbs and flows with rhythmic footwork and poetry. Electrifying
climaxes are reached when the percussionist and the dancer engage
each other in skilful execution of Boles.
Kathak dancers are experts in music, dance and story-telling. The
word 'Kathak' is derived from the word 'Katha' (story); as stated
in the Programme notes, in modern Kathak renderings, rhythm and
movement have overshadowed the story-telling character.
the audience on a journey filled with artistry, passion and enchantment.
In the first half she displayed her technical prowess and artistic
brilliance in the rendering of today's traditional Kathak. She chose
the four seasons to depict the fury of the monsoons, the abandonment
of the falling autumn leaves, the isolation of winter and the consuming
fire of summer. Music from a trio of vocal and instrumental accompanists
gave active rhythmic support and the minimalist melodic content
that characterizes the Kathak format. Intricately weaving the Boles,
the entranced Tabla player and the dancer synchronized their climatic
crescendos with explosive ecstasy and panache. The audience was
too spellbound to applaud these high points. Yet, it did so, it
seemed, somewhat hesitatingly.
half that comprised a kaleidoscopic miscellany was a striking contrast
in technique, choreography, presentation and genre. It looked as
if Aditi the Kathak-dancer had been transmogrified! Recorded music
replaced live musicians. Coloured spotlights and a variety of costumes
changed the overall stage ambience. The themes were sensuous and
passionately danced. The imagery and movements were languorous and
pulsating. All in all, there was a discernible touch of modernity
in content and form without a hint of cheap vulgarity. Aditi's movements
showed the suppleness and plasticity of her body. She used yogic
postures and stillness of silence to express moods of romance, lamentation
and cycles of heightened passion and claustrophobia. Shubha Mudgal's
music interspersed with sprinklings of her haunting, plaintive voice
gave atmospheric intensity to these emotions. But the fire and spirit
of Kathak's deft footwork that surfaced from time to time were fleeting
moments that were reminiscent of Andalusian flamenco.
As I watched
all this, it never occurred to me that the gypsies originated somewhere
in North India. In their nomadic wanderings, they displayed a passion
for music and dance. Another amazing aspect of the gypsy diaspora
was its capacity to absorb local music and dance forms and infuse
into them elements of Indian music.
Thus, when they
entered Spain in the 15th century, fragments of Indian music having
distinct mogul influences might have been absorbed into Spanish
Aditi is an
innovator and an explorer of the past to create a new future in
her dance idioms. Could it be that some of her contemporary repertoire
are cross-cultural derivatives stemming from her deep insights into
the cultural history of India?
It is clear
that Aditi is more than just another accomplished practitioner of
Kathak. She has performed in major cities of the world to critical
acclaim; she is an examiner and a judge in the Ministry of Human
Resource Development in granting scholarships in Kathak dancing
and has read papers at dance workshops. The evening's dance performance
was a fitting event to commemorate the birth anniversary of Neelan
Tiruchelvam. His deep interest in and love of music and culture
were eclectic. By giving the Sri Lankan public the opportunity to
enjoy Aditi Mangaldas, the International Centre for Ethnic Studies
has once again shown its enduring commitment to celebrating Neelan's
is a member of the Western Music Panel of the Arts Council of Sri
styles in trading places
returns for his fourth exhibition in Sri Lanka. Entitled "Trading
Places", it highlights his abiding interest in depicting shops,
stores and commercial outlets of every description that have had
a popular reception in the past.
His water colours
range from intricate paintings of crumbling old colonial style buildings
with their many and varying trades to the smaller rapid studies,
such as the old Dutch houses in Galle Fort, kiosks and vendors'
are not mere picturesque or quaint renderings of old and decaying
buildings, or sentimental representations of the leftovers of a
bygone era, but painterly depictions of light, shape and colour.
of street life are quite objective," he says. " My subject
is buildings, old or modern, but normally with some aspect of age
or decay. However, I do not paint romantic ruins; to me there is
no romanticism in decay, dirt and degeneration. The noise, ugliness
and squalour of urban life repels me, but I am also drawn to it
as a subject. However, just as I have no wish to romanticize the
things I paint nor do I want to condemn or express anger. Although
much of what I see, what I would describe as urban blight, is ugly
and often brutal in the way low grade modern buildings are unsympathetically
inserted into streets of formerly well designed and attractive housing,
my hope is that in describing what is there, and expressing it as
form and colour, it can in some way be redeemed and reclaimed as
This he does
by painting what is there in a manner which on closer inspection
reveals interesting combinations of shapes and colours drawn into
unity by the light and the underlying grid structure of the architecture.
When he paints
shops, the colourful patches and detailed painting of the signboards
play a significant part in the overall scheme of the work.
His Kandy paintings
focus on the elderly, graceful buildings many of them now listed
for conservation. Ornate, decorated upper stories where broken window
frames, cracked and peeling plaster work and fading colours provide
a richly detailed backdrop in stark contrast to the slick brash
signboards and open shop fronts, banners, metal supports and air
has been described as 'frozen music' and that is another of its
attractions for me," he continues.
"So I conceive
my paintings as musical analogies. The repetition of formal elements,
spacing or intervals, clustering of details and lines running through,
is a classical structure over which are the incidental elements:
open and closed windows, broken fragments, patches of moss and foliage,
signboards, traffic and pedestrians, and the interplay of light
and shade provide variations which enliven and develop the theme.
The whole takes on a symphonic appearance."
The larger pieces
are painted in the studio with the aid of drawings and photographs
and often take many days to complete, while the smaller studies
are done entirely in front of the motif.
Sitting on the
crowded pavements of Kandy for instance, struggling against noise
and fumes and the constantly changing light, with sometimes only
glimpses of the buildings opposite between parked vehicles and crowds
of onlookers, he still manages to draw his detailed and accurately
proportioned buildings, delicately painted, with tiny figures scurrying
about or standing in the shops.
opens at Barefoot Gallery, on Tuesday, February 18, at 7.30 p.m.
and continues daily until March 4.
Kankariya for Chitrasenas school
Kalayatanaya will hold a "Kohomba Kankariya" on Saturday,
February 22 to bless the plot of land on which the new Chitrasena
Kalayatanaya will be built. The land is located on the corner of
Elvitigala Mawatha and Park Road. All are welcome to attend.
Kankariya is a ritual performed in the Kandyan areas to invoke the
blessings of the deities to bring about prosperity in cultivation.
The origin of this ritual can be traced back to age-old customs,
cults and beliefs in our society.
The story of
its origin is interesting. It goes back to Vijaya's arrival in Sri
Lanka. Vijaya and Kuveni were married and had two children. Later
Vijaya abandoned Kuveni to marry a princess from Madura. Kuveni
cursed Vijaya for this insult. The curse fell on Panduvasdev who
was Vijaya's successor. King Panduvasdev after a dream in which
an apparition appeared in the form of a leopard, was taken ill.
Sakra declared that the king's illness could be cured only by a
person who was born of a flower. 'Malaya Raja' who was supposed
to be the ideal person, had to be brought to Sri Lanka for this
purpose. Rahu undertook to bring him and entered the king's garden
'Nandana' in the form of boar. The king gave chase to the boar.
The chase continued through Sri Lanka. The bear finally reached
Hantane. God Sakra appeared again and explained everything. Malaya
Raja then performed the ritual at Mahamevuna garden, Anuradhapura
and blessed King Panduvasdev. The king was cured and since then
'Kohomba Kankariya' became a ritual invoking blessings on the sick.
is performed as a number of dance sequences beginning and ending
with prayers. Five dramatised incidents (Yakkam Paha) and five stories
(Katha Paha) are enacted. This is followed by five different types
of aims (Dana Paha) and a series of drumming and dance sequences.
before returning to his country, conferred the duty of performing
the ritual to a prince, who was bathing under a Kohomba tree. Thereafter
the prince was named 'Kohomba' and the ritual came to be known as
From the time
preparations are made for the ritual till the completion of the
ceremony there are a number of rites and customs to be performed.
Those are presented with drumming, singing and dancing. The dances
performed in the tradition known as Kandyan Dancing are included
in the ritual 'Kohomba Kankariya'.
Korner by Dee Cee
Meeting an old friend is always a pleasant experience. Wimal
Dissanayake and I were on the Dinamina news desk in the early sixties.
After he moved over to the Kelaniya University to head the newly
formed Mass Communications department too we worked together. Then
he took wing to the East West Centre in Hawaii where has been pursuing
his academic work. Since retiring from there, he has moved to the
University of Hong Kong as a visiting professor.
busy with his university work, Wimal continued his interest in creative
writing - something he has done since his undergraduate days in
Peradeniya. His first book of poems, was 'Akal Wessa'. A few days
back he dropped in to give me a copy of his latest anthology of
poems, 'Nagala Kanda' .
I was quite
intrigued to find that the 92-page book carries no less than 78
creations completed over the past few years. He says that he sees
two underlying themes in them - death and contemplation. However,
the poems do not drag the reader into thinking life is not worth
living. Written in the most simple and lucid style, Wimal touches
on a variety of topics in 'Nagala Kanda'. Even for the average reader
like me, it offers much.
portrays the mood of the times - the war, young lives being lost
and families being devastated. These poems create not only sympathy
and sorrow but also remind one of the futility of war. 'Jana Viruva'
is a fine example. When he moves over to nature, he creates vivid
pictures. In 'Avurudu Da', he captures his thoughts of spending
the New Year back home, intermixed with life in Hong Kong from where
Paying a tribute
to our 'guru', Dr Sarachchandra, he captures the essence of the
masterpieces created by him in eight lines. Similarly, Wimal sums
up what maestro Amaradeva means to us. There are other unnamed personalities
he remembers with his pen.
If one spots a young man in light blue denims and shirt with
sleeves rolled up amidst a crowd of art lovers, make no mistake
- it's Buddhi Galappatti. He rarely misses any event connected to
the arts. He is seen at book launches, musical presentations, felicitations
and of course, at plays where he spends most of the time backstage
doing make-up with his helpers.
assignment was 'Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde' where he did a superb job
in transforming a few young Royalists into early 20th century English
with theatre began in 1969 when he was picked by Dr Tissa Kariyawasam
who was helping Dr. Sarachchandra to revive 'Maname', to be stage
manager. He had just passed out of the Vidyodaya University. Soon
he found himself assisting a well known name in the make-up field,
Padmakumar Ediriweera. Whenever the latter found himself unable
to go for outstation shows, Buddhi was given that responsibility.
"What a wonderful experience it was to do makeup for the queen
of stage at the time, Trillicia Gunawardena and the foremost actors
Ben Sirimanne (Prince Maname), Edmund Wijesinghe (Veddah king) and
'Potheguru' Shyaman Jayasinghe," Buddhi recalls. "I was
so nervous wondering whether I would be able to please Dr. Sarachchandra
- he was so particular and so meticulous." Obviously he did
a good job for he is now the most sought after make-up artiste both
in Sinhala and English theatre.
drama, Buddhi moved over to realistic drama with Sugathapala de
Silva's 'Dunna Dunu Gamuve' and has worked right through with veteran
dramatists up to Prasanna Vithanage. Many are the awards that Buddhi
has earned over the years for his efforts. Apart from awards for
best make-up, Buddhi's last collection of verses, 'Turu Liya Akuru
Viya' won the 1999 State literary award.
A top executive
in the private sector (he works at Holcim, which bought Puttalam
Cement), Buddhi somehow finds time to get involved with cultural