Wednesday, February 23, 2011

why the heroes are mainly gods in the songs we dance to???

is it because of devadasis who were wedded to the lord or is it because ultimately every sadhak aims at joining with the gods????

Saturday, November 13, 2010

mohiniyattam kutcheri

Presenting mohiniyattam on nov 16th,6 pm 2010 at Mylapore FIne ARts CLub, Chennai as part of Pushpanjalai Dance Festival.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vineeth, and his musing on his films and dance.

Caught up with vineeth while he was in coimbatore as part of a major dance production by his Guru Dr Padma Subramanyam based on the work of Dr Karunanidhi as part of the World Tamil Conference held recently in the city.

Q: you are from a family of artistes, was it natural for you to be an artiste?

Padmini amma was the only artiste in our family. She was married to my father’s elder brother. Otherwise my family consists mainly of academicians. My father was a lawyer and my mother is a doctor. Padmini Amma spotted my talent at a very young age. At my father’s brother’s reception I was jumping around and she dressed me up and asked me to dance and then told my parents that you have to teach this boy dance and that’s how I started learning dance.

Q: You balance both dancing and acting career simultaneously. How are you able to do it?

During my childhood I was used to balancing my dance with academics. Of course in those days the priority was studies but dancing was always a part of me whether it is training or performing. After my graduation, when I chose cinema as my profession I wanted to give equal importance to dance. We need to find time for what we want to do and it was not difficult for me to find time for dance even when I was busy with my films. I never thought of giving up dance. I had to plan my time to accommodate my dance, especially after joining under Dr Padma Subramanyam since my timing had to coincide with her availability and with god’s grace it has been going fine.

Q: How did the shift from Kerala to Chennai happen?

I did my graduation in Chennai and I have been in Chennai since 1993. Basically I decided to stay here because it is the place to be for an artiste to get exposed to a lot of great performances and also to have access to people in the industry.

Q: Is Dance your priority or is it Cinema?

Both, I should say because I am an actor and dancing is part of my profession and I do a lot of dance shows here and abroad. For commercial dance shows I do contemporary, fusion or semi-classical and so I give equal importance to both. When it comes to cinema i am very selective about my roles and I don’t do whatever is offered to me. The roles that are offered to you depend on your current market value or else depending on your caliber they offer you meaningful roles. So to an extent, owing to the quality of work that I have done in my past, with god’s grace I have been getting good roles. I have been lucky to work with some of the great directors in Malayalam and I could do a lot of different roles that had variety. Even though initially I did many roles a teenage boy, it was never a chocolate boy romantic character. Say for example, the characters I portrayed in Parinayam, ghazal, kabuliwalah, saram, nagakshathangal…were all varied with some depth and dimension.

The saleable factor is very important because this is business. How saleable you are depending on that people put money on you. It is big money. Whether it is tamil or Malayalam, I am happy to get good roles. But on the whole meaningful cinemas have become rare even in Malayalam since commercial films have taken over. However, such commercial aren’t doing well either. People are not coming to the theatres.

Q: Do you think that this shift to commercial movies and the reduced audience due to the organizational effect?

No No definitely not because of the organizational effect. That’s a false impression people have got. I don’t want to get into it because there are lot of controversies involved but see if you look at the big picture, films like 3 idiots, Avatar and My Name is Khan have been bumper hits in the state in spite of them being other language films. Why? It is their quality and that’s what people want. It is not about an organization or an actor or a star. Definitely not. We have to take the initiative to make good films. But people who are investing in films go by recent trends and success and bank on saleable actors. They decide the actors they want in the movie going by their saleability and not on the basis of what the film demands. We cant do anything about that because they are investing their money. It is an unhealthy situation that’s prevalent at present. But whenever you give a sensible film and you market it well definitely people will flock to the theatres.

What’s Pazhaasiraja?? See the time when it was made; when commercial films were the norm of the day. When even such films were not fetching audience, pazhasiraja fared well. Look at the film, there is nothing light about the movie, there is no humour, no romance. No dance and music. It is the content of the movie that’s the highlight. There is an element of our traditional values and culture in all of us and when they are presented in an authentic way people will appreciate it.

Q: But still Pazhasiraja had a super star in the cast..

Yes Mammokka was the attractive star factor in the movie but also you had masters like MT Vasudevan Nair, Hariharan, Ilayaraja. A combination of these people and a fantastic theme worked for the success of the movie. It is not the actors, it is the character they play that matter. Of course Mammookka’s presence has enhanced the value of the film. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors we have. So, what I am trying to say is that these organisatins aren’t the deciding factor. It is the quality of the films that matter. But unfortunately certain people have this notion that only certain kind of movies will click in the box office.

Q: Has your training in dance helped u as n actor?

Not really, on the contrary, it has been a hindrance to my acting. Being a dancer, even though you say male dance like thandavam is very masculine there is certain amount of lasya or grace in it. But film acting has to be very natural or realistic. When you play a rustic hero it has be very very macho and no element of grace should come to play. Owing to this fact, I had to be really conscious right from the beginning. If you see, in my initial films, my dance training is very visible in my movements which were very organized and graceful. It happens involuntarily because of my training. “Yadho Hasta Thado Dristhi: where the hands go the eyes follow. So if am saying ‘ningal avidey poyittu varoo” with my hands and eyes, it will look a little effeminate and graceful. That is because of my training in dance. So, I have to take a conscious effort to restrict my movements, and also see that my expressions don’t go overboard while acting in films. Otherwise as a dancer I have a good sense of talam, and music and can quickly grasp movements. In cinema they cover your face with about 100 lenses and the minutest movement like the blink of an eye or a frown becomes very pronounced and can make a huge difference.

Q: As an artiste do you think cinema is a complete medium?

Cinema is definitely is a great medium to get to the masses and to get recognition and its power is certainly huge. Cinema has a magical appeal and faster reach to the audience. Seeing on big screen creates a special aura around the actors which gives an edge over other mediums. However, every art form has its own value and audience.

Q: What do you think makes a superstar out of an actor?

HARDWORK. A lot of hardwork , god’s grace and luck. It is the dedication and the discipline of the artiste. Superstardom is an appreciation by the masses or the audience to the artiste. If you have to get that status it definitely has to be your hardwork and also luck. And whoever has comet o that level it is certainly their hard work and also their caliber will be one step above the rest and that’s why the public accepts them as their superstar. Because, there is something about the person which we have to acknowledge and accept.

Q: What about the talented actors who don’t get that status?

As I said its talent plus luck and hardwork. Simply nobody will make anybody a superstar. They have to have that admiration for the artiste. Now a days one also needs to do a lot of PR and reach to the audience and promote their films.

Q: Looking back at your career are you happy the way it has gone so far.

Definitely I am happy. See I have been in this industry for more than 25 yrs. I started when I was a student. Initially my priority was academics and after my graduation I got a few good roles which gave me a break in the industry and so I could take films as my profession. It wasn’t like after my graduation I decided “ok now I am going to become an actor”. I didn’t have that kind of support that I could invest in my own films and make sure that I become an actor. I needed offers and with god’s grace I got good films which clicked in the box office. This gave me a good foundation for my acting career. My success graph of course kept fluctuating. There were times when I have really done well whether Tamil or in Malayalam and at times when two or three films don’t work you are in the bottom but all along I have been very fortunate to get meaningful roles whether I was in the prime of market or not. I never had a long break in between films. I was either doing films Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu or Kannada.

Even if I had a gap of three to four months I would be busy with my dance. On the whole I am happy with the roles I have got. Sometimes success rate hasn’t been great but that can’t be helped. It has affected my career in some ways in getting some good roles and to an extent I should blame myself since I have not gone about doing PR for myself which is a must these days. My priority was work, which I do by putting all my heart into and wanted my work to speak for myself. That’s the only factor that I regret in my film career. I should have built on the exposure which the film Kadaldesam gave on the national level. I didn’t tap in the opportunity and was busy doing films in the south.

Since I operate myself in Tamil and Malaylam industry though in Telugu I have someone to negotiate and finalize roles for me, it is difficult to really go out and promote myself and my films. I think it is very important for an actor these days and in the coming future to give time for the publicity of your films and do PR for yourself.

Q: Are you disappointed that you are not getting lead roles these days?

No. Definitely not. I am still getting interesting characters in the lead role though I am not in the prime of my film career. Maybe they are not big budgeted movies but I am not disappointed. As long as I get good roles I am happy.

Q: Was the character you did in Rathrimazha your dream role or is it yet to come??

In Rathrimazha the character had only shades of a dancer. The story was mainly of the husband and wife. My dream is yet to come. I have been saying this for a long time. I hope it won’t remain just a dream. Am waiting for an authentic, full fledged dancer’s role. I can’t compare it to any of the movies that has been already made. It should be something unique with a strong subject and the right crew.

Q: You played the role of Ramanathan in Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. How do you feel about it?

It was a great experience. Actually fazil sir had called me for the original film Manichitrathazhu in Malayalam but unfortunately at that time I was committed to doing the Movie Parinayam and another Malayalam one. I just couldn’t accommodate dates since Parinayam was a big movie with big star cast. Even now people ask me why I didn’t do that role in Manichitrathazhu. I really missed it. But after thirteen years calling me to do the same role in different languages is a miracle. It wasn’t because of anybody’s insistence that I was called by Sivaji films directly to do the role in Chandramukhi. The role has given me great recognition in tamil industry as a dancer. People there didn’t know I was a trained dancer. The added advantage of the film was sharing screen space with Rajini sir in the climax in his own film that too in a song scene. The kind of exposure Rajini sir’s movie gets outside is phenomenal. According to the feedback I got my contribution to the film was also well appreciated by the audience.

Q: Are you more comfortable doing Malayalam movie?
I am comfortable doing films in any language. Recently I did a hindi movie called ‘Queens” with Seema Biswas. It is a beautiful intense movie whose release I am eagerly waiting for; which will be sometime in Sep/ Oct. I have even dubbed for the movie.

In any movie it is the character, the crew, the set up and the caliber of the director that matters. Whatever we do it is through the director’s point of view and he/she has to be somebody with focus and lot of conviction.

Yes I feel more comfortable doing Malayalam movie because it is my mother tongue and my native state. The work style is very different here. It is very homely and everybody works together and artistes don’t sit in separate caravans as in other languages. It is a small industry and it is lot of fun working here. When I am working in Tamil I will have a caravan, my assistants, and food comes separately. Here it is not like that, if we go to some street for a shot, we will take permission from a home nearby and do make-up there. Sometimes I and the heroine will be in the same room and also other artistes. We All of us sit and talk and when our turn comes we will go for the shot and come back. You will here people shouting for you. That’s a different ambience. But the technique of working is same everywhere. We have lot of technicians from here working there and from there working here.

Q: Any favorite director or co star?

I can’t name just one. Among the directors I have worked with HAriharan sir, FAzil sir, Priyadarshan, Sibi Malayil, Kamal ikka, they are masters. There are a lot of great directors I have worked with in Malayalam. Working with each of them has been a great learning experience which I always treasure.

About co stars I have done about five films with Monisha otherwise it has been all new faces who later on became stars. Like rambha, sunitha… some of their first films were with me and I have done stage shows with many actresses. It has been great.

Q: Talking about dance, how do u feel being a student of the great dancer Dr Padma Subramanyam?

I feel very blessed to be her student. My former guru Kalmandalam Saraswathi from CAlicut from whom I started learning when I was in sixth standard, is Padukka’s senior most student. So my basic learning as been in her style and when I met PAddukka through PAdmini amma she saw my dance and felt that I could adapt to her style of dancing. She uses lot of Karanas (poses as prescribed in Natysastra and engraved as sculptures in many temples in tamilnadu). Though I have been attending her workshops since long I became a committed student of her at Nritodaya (her dance school) from 2003. Under her I have been doing many solo and group performances all over the world. It is a great blessing for any dancer to have a guru like her since apart from mastering the art form lot of values and discipline gets instilled in you.

Q: Do you think its possible for a dancer to earn a living through dance?

Yes. The times are changing; people have become more aware of traditional dance form, especially youngsters. They are keen on learning these art forms. So the teachers are also on demand across the world. . I am not talking about the lucrative part but the value. Money comes later depending on how good you are. Your motive should never be money but it should be to spread the art form. IF you start calculating that you need so many students and so many shows in a month it might not be successful. A genuine artiste will never think like that. Taking dance as a living entirely depends on your caliber, focus and attitude. There are people who have a steady job on the side and work for dance in the side as a passion. Some people market themselves well to be successful.

Q: Your upcoming projects?

As I said earlier, one is ‘Queens’ in hindi. In Malayalam I just finished a film called ‘Neelambari” which will be released soon. Then I am doing a film called ‘Attakatha’ the shooting for which is stopped for now owing to the strike. Apart from that there are two other movies which I will start working on soon. Also lot of dance shows lined up. I will be performing in UK, Singapore and Canada.

Q: your family

Wife Priscilla, daughter Avanti (yrs old) in LKG. We are settled in madras. My mother lives in kerala. My wife is an ardent art lover and watches lot of dance programmes. She gives me a lot of feedback and ideas. My daughter too loves dance.

Q; What do u have to say to budding artistes?

Be focused. It is lot of hard work and never give up the initial enthusiasm. Dance teachers have to make learning more interesting. Training in classical music and dance will help in imbibing lot of qualities and values. Discipline sets in your life along with sense of time and responsibility which will reflect in everything you do in life.

I feel it is a must for children to get trained in classical music and dance, whether they want to pursue it is their personal choice.

Q: To your audience?

As an actor I would to tell the audience to keep watching movies in theatre instead of watching them on TV. Films are made to be watched in the theatre, in big screens with the right ambience. Let the film industry grow, support it by going to theatres as movies are made for you.

Mohiniyattam concert on 26th August 2010 at Chandralekha's Spaces, no 1 Elliot's Beach Road, Besant Nagar, Chennai.

As a humble effort to portray the beautiful, graceful and lyrical dance form Mohiniyattam, i am presenting a concert on August 26, six thirty pm at Chandralekha's Spaces, no 1 Elliot's beach road, besant nagar, chennai. All are welcome.
duration of the show will be one hour.

Thank you

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Common terminologies used in dance

Korvai: It is a combination of two or more adavus which end with a particular kind of adavu (kitathakadharikitatom) or (thadhinginatom)which is repeated thrice or in multiples of three (theermanam) at the end of a korvai.A korvai can be described as a garland of adavus.

Teermanam: it is the particular kind of adavu which is repeated thrice or in multiples of three at the end of a jathi or dance sequence.

Sollukettus: The different sounds produced by the feet are recognized by different pronounciations (vaytharis or syllables).The combinations of these syllables are called sollukettus. While dancing these sollukettus are played on the mridangam.

Jathi:It is a set of sollukettus which end with a theermanam.In these the sollukettus are rendered by the nattuvannar.It is a rhythmic pattern showing intricate pattern of movements and thalas.It places emphasis on footwork and is a combination of two or more adavus.If the jathi is rendered in three speeds it is trikaala jathi.A jathi is danced at the beginning of a jatiswaram.

Nadai: It is the time measure from one beat to another beat in a tala.There are 5 nadais
Tisram(3 counts), chaturasram(4 counts), khandam(5 counts), Misram(7 counts), sankeernam(9 counts).

Tattimettu: It is the name given to a particular kind of adavu by which different kinds of nadais or time measures are produced by the feet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

a look at the elements of indian classical dance from natyasastra

excerpts from "Movement and Mimesis" The idea of dance in the sanskritic tradition by Mandakranta Bose.

The Nataysastra of Bharata muni is the earliest and most extensive work on all aspects of drama, dance and music. The fourth chapter of Natyasastra (NS) is entirely devoted to dance.

dance, as as said in NS, was created for beauty's sake. The terms bharata muni uses for this dance are two- nrtta and tandava.
NS chapter 4 (259-61)

Recakas, angaharas, and the pindibandhas were created by god (siva) and then given to the sage Tandu. That method of dancing which was then created by him (Tandu) accompanied by appropriate songs and drums is known as Tandava.
The compound nrttaprayoga in the last line equates tandava with nrtta.

Nrtta is described as an artform which is beautified with angaharas made of various karanas.

Karana is the basic unit of dancing and NS has prescribed 108 karanas.

A combination of karnas numbering six to nine makes an angahara, which can be descibed as basic dance sequence.

NS says such nrtta beautify a dramamtic performance when used in the purvanga or prelimeneries of a dramatic presentation.

Recakas are defined as the basic movements of the feet, hips, hands and neck which Bharat describes in chapter four.

Pindibandhas are group dances that constitute a distinct phase of the prelimenaries following the introductory dancing. the purpose of pindibandhas is to invoke the blessings of the gods. Pindibndhas are dedicated to different gods who are denoted by their emblems, which are represnted by the formations created by the dancers.

The presentation of Dance as described in fourth chapter;
A performance meant for the offering of flowers (pushpanjali) at the beginning of a play which consists of abstarct dance movements ((paryastaka)non-mimetic) with the accompaniment of drums and (abhinaya)mimetic action set to songs without the accompaniment of drums.

Bharata doesnt specify the names of movements to be employed. There is mention of only the opening posture; vaisakha sthana, which incidently is the initial stance of the bharatantyam style today.

The presentation is described thus: a female dancer performs nrtta to the palying of the drums, offers flowers, moves around, bows to the gods and mimes the meaning of a song without the accompaniment of drums. After this she exits and a group of dancers enter and present various formations (pindibandhas)resembling the emblems of various gods and then they exit. the main dancer enters again and repeats her performance and abhinaya. she exits and group dancers re-enter and repeat their group formations.
This presentation seems to be similar to what we see in the varnam of the bharatanatyam of today except for the part played by group dancers.

(to be cont...d)