‘Beta sur mein nacho.’ These were the words uttered by her Guru. Today as she stands before an audience who are as clueless to the art like a child to the world of Maya, she patiently listened to my questions and answers them with utmost honesty, sincerity, and humility. Sushmita Bannerji, had indeed won the hearts of many exponents after her recital at the Kalikota Palace situated in Tripunithra, the home of the Cochin Royal Family.
The recital commenced with a dhrupad concert performed by renowned Dhrupad singer Alaka Nanda.
Banerji had begun her recital with a Ram Vandan. Followed by a demonstration. She then went on to performing a thumri. This is symbolic of the bond between Radha and Krishna. But the best parts of the performance were indeed the jugal bandi between the tabla player incorporating elements of the jhijhikita (the manner in which the sounds of the ghunghroo or anklets are controlled by the dancer) and the Chakkar. This dancer is seen taking 23 continuous turns and concludes in a static position.
Now, was the performance a treat to the eye? Surely, the Dhrupad , is one of the oldest and most cherished forms of Hindustani Music. It is known for its unique yet spiritual nature as is often dedicated to a god or goddess. But the piece could have been replaced with something more lively. Let us face it, not everybody appreciates classical music, especially complex aspects such as Dhrupad.
An artist can never be blamed for her style, technique or even innovation. Then again, for those who would have witnessed maestros like Birju Maharaj and his disciple Saswati Sen perform the art, it is truly impossible to appreciate another dancers approach towards the form. Moreover, the environment or the ambiance for the performance was not apt. Poor acoustics and lack of basic understanding of the art among the audiences did make the performance less exciting and impressive. Unlike most recitals, this performance did not follow a format. Rather, it was as if they were trying too hard to entertain the audiences with music, percussions, and dance. I found it rather interesting but unnecessary for the tabla player to demonstrate the beauty of a Chaap Taal in between the recital. Also, the Chakkar seemed less exciting than it truly is due to the lack of space in the hall.
While some of us feel this way, many were touched by her performance. ‘I could feel your devotion to the lord,’ said Jayasree, a Mohiniyattam dancer. It is was delightful to see how Ms. Banerji sought the blessings of senior members of the Ladies Kathakali Troupe and was willing to accept all types of criticism.
‘Whatever be the style of dance, the dancer must perform from the heart. The movements, the expressions should touch the souls of the audience,’ said Sushmita Bannerji. Perhaps some arts take longer to touch the hearts of those unaware.