Ancients with a contemporary twist

Midway through attending a concert, Dr Suma Sudhindra evidently isn’t too thrilled with the interruption. A devotion to the arts occupies an unshakeable position at the top of the priority list; perhaps it is this very drive that underlies the Bangalore International Arts Festival, which she co-founded with renowned Kathakali dancer Veena Murthy Vijay. Eleven years ago, the two doyens of the classical music and dance scenes in India, got together to create the artists’ festival. Over 1500 artists from across the globe have performed here over the years. 

This year, the festival will begin with a performance by the acclaimed Kuchipudi exponent Ardhanareeshwara Venkat, and Dr Veena Murthy Vijay. It’s a diverse schedule too, one that includes a tree-planting session, the Go-Green initiative and a yoga class by Namrata Sudhindra of Nikaya Yoga.  

Both founders have much in common. They’re highly accomplished in their fields, which tend to be somewhat male-dominated. They have made their way through the rigidity of the Indian classical circuit and alongside this, travelled the world, performing at some of the most celebrated venues in the world. The Tarangini Veena, which has found its place in the music circles, was her contribution to her art form.  

The spectrum of the performance world afforded many lessons for the two artistes. They found, in venues abroad, the artist as the central character in the show and every care was taken to ensure that their needs were met. There was no need to struggle with lighting or last moment glitches in sound, or work through the myriad problems that face a performance artist in India. The festival soon gained ground as a celebration of the arts, with a carefully curated selection of performers from India and around the globe. "We tie up with various state governments and they put us in touch with lots of folk musicians and performers," explains Dr Sudhindra.  

This year, for instance, brings the Ranisara Dancing Academy from Sri Lanka, to the city. Established about 20 years ago, the academy teaches both classical and folk dance forms. Their students presented a Water Pot Dance, customarily performed by a bevy of young women holding clay pots, a re-enactment of when the village girls would make the trek to fetch water. 

The Chamara Dance, also on the list, is performed by girls holding two wooden sticks fitted with bristles. Haruyo Kimura from Japan, plays the Niko, or the ‘Exotic Violin’, a two-stringed bowed musical instrument. Some versions of mythology and folklore believe the Niko can be traced back to King Ravana, who played an instrument called the Ravanastron.  

Dr Ardhanareeswaram Venkat, the acclaimed Kuchipudi dancer known for reviving the Ardhanareeswaram tradition from the verge of extinction, will perform too. Through myriad performances, he spreads the message of the spiritual union of male and female, translating ancient wisdom into contemporary vocabulary.  

"We had to give up on an outdoor inauguration because rain is likely," Dr Sudhindra jokes. That’s a minor hitch, for the festival has accomplished much since its inception. The Bangalore International Arts Festival is a celebration of local culture and traditions and the most importantly, the artists who keep them alive. 

What: Bangalore International Arts Festival
When: Sept. 30, Oct. 5, 6 and 7
Where: Multiple venues

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Note from Kannada.Club :

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