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Arangetram: Bhoomika Kumar

M.N. Annapurna

Cherished memoirs - Disciple in Dallas, Guru in Boston and the arangetram in Bengaluru

Sunday, the 23rd of July 2017, was a great day for all of us here in Bengaluru. We had assembled to witness the Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Bhoomika Kumar, daughter of Smt. Padmaja and Sri Ajay Kumar. Obviously, we were “all excited”. Witnessing a dance recital by a family member, that too a debut was  a scintillating experience to be. We were very new to the format of an arangetram, not only that, arangetram meant for us only a dance arangetram, and only for a professional dancer.  There have been a number of musicians in the family and extended family, who have performed in a number and variety of concerts, conducted/ organized music fests. Many of us and our children have performed in various school/ college/ office functions with participation in music/ dance/ drama. I had been to a Bharatanatyam arangetram and a dance-drama, performed live. Have watched many dance dramas on TV., but no, there hasn’t been a dance recital by a family member. So I was wondering whether we could even “appreciate” a dance recital in the real sense of the term. But I was fortunate to witness Bhoomika’s practice sessions and have a few discussions with some of my friends which gave me a quick insight into the format of the event. So I was waiting eagerly to be there at the JSS Auditorium on the D-day.

Having said this, I must speak of Bhoomika, I have seen her as a baby, as a small child, blossoming to a young girl, a  youngster with a keen interest, a sharp acumen, a strong commitment and hard work, and above all,  a never-say-die attitude in all she does, be it studies, co –curricular activities or hobbies. So here she was, with fervor to present her dance skills or was it to explore her abilities to perform with live orchestra.  She had said that dance for her was a way to connect to her Indian heritage, to get introduced to the epics and the puranas, while also being the way to maintain her physical fitness. And so we were anxious to know what she was planning to present at the function.

Bhoomika’s guru, Smt Jeyanthi Ghatraju, was introduced to us a few days before the event. We realized that she was very confident, cheerful, multi-faceted – a  plant geneticist by training, a software engineer by profession, and a dancer, teacher at heart, in her own words, that was what she did to keep her really, really going.

So the two together, Madam Jeyanthi and Bhoomika had drawn a list of items to be presented- the Natanapooje, Jathiswaram, Kavuthuvam as starter and tempo builders, a varnam as the “piece de resistance”, a few krithis which would give scope to exhibit the bhava, raga, tala sammelanam, a thillana, “dance of pure joy”, as worded by the guru, and finally the mangalam, “a benediction to all”.

Orchestra was provided by Vidushi Vasudha Balakrishna (vocal), Vidwan Mahesh Swamy (flute), Vid. Harsha Samaga (mridangam) and Vid. Prasanna Kumar (rhythm pad), an amazing team of well-seasoned artists, the nattuvangam, of course, was by Smt. Jeyanthi Ghatraju. After a few rehearsals, the team was all set to perform at the Arangetram.

The hall, JSS Auditorium, was perfectly decorated, not one bit more or one bit less. The stage, the audio system, the lighting, the backstage and the green room were all perfectly tuned. The guests consisted largely of our relatives, friends and well-wishers, from far and wide - several of whom had travelled long distances! Most notably, the guests of honour, Smt. Dwaraki Krishnaswamy, an acclaimed composer and senior musician, Ustad Shabbir Nisar, the tabla nawaz from Hyderabad, Smt. Rajini Shankar, a professional dance critic, Sri Jayanth Kaikini, noted writer, and  Sri Nagara Srinivasa Udupa, noted singer, gave a sparkle to the spectacular gallery.

The function began with a puja to Lord Nataraja, Goddess Saraswathi and the Gejje- the bells, invoking the blessings of the Almighty, and a short prayer in the form of a vocal rendering of Sri Mahaganapathe  by Madam Vasudha . A warm welcome to the guests, artists and guests of honour was extended by Smt. Padmaja and Sri Ajay Kumar, while also introducing Guru Smt. Jeyanthi. Guru Jeyanthi gave a brief introduction to the format of a Bharatanatyam arangetram and an erudite explanation of each of the items presented, a total of nine items, each giving enough scope to build the tempo, provide ample opportunity to exhibit Bhoomika’s skills and expertise, bringing out the bhava of each piece rendered. It was a very neat presentation filled with grace and confidence.  The spectators, a good four hundred in number, very appreciative and encouraging as they were, sat spell-bound at the narrative skills of the guru, the performing skills of the disciple and the enchanting melody of the team of musicians.  Little had they realized that they had sat for close to three hours.  When the program came to an end, each one among the audience had words of praise  for the dancer, the guru, the musicians, and the parents, Padmaja and Ajay.

It was definitely an evening, an event  to remember, for each one of us. It had introduced the dancer in Bhoomika and enriched the taste of the dance form in  all of us.

In the words of Sri Praveen, my nephew, a software engineer by profession, a connoisseur of art:

“What shall I say, where shall I begin?
When I think about the day, the mind starts singin!

So beautiful was the stage, it took us back through the age!
So well decorated as if to welcome a sage!

The sage did arrive, in form of a teenage,
But how well did she engage, much beyond her age!

While the audience sat, humbled and glued to their seat!
Bhoomika danced away not once missing a beat!

Oh so much breadth, such elegance and so much endurance!
Irony was the audience who were catching breath, but little could they do
Such was the performance!

Oh all those expressions and the emotions all of nine(navarasa)!
Nothing but perfection and nothing short of divine!

The smile on Jeyanthi, she must’ve been so proud!
And so were the crowd, who tapped and clapped so loud!

Oh what a fine debut, an evening to remember!
To be present there was nothing but our pleasure!

Kudos Bhoomika, you’re an asset to your art,
And you have made a mark forever in our hearts!”

Oh, what shall I say, Praveen!  A crisp and neat summary indeed.

And, this is how Smt Prabha and  Sri Sathyaprakash expressed their happiness :

The Bharathanatya Arangetram of Kumari Bhoomika in Bangalore under the able guidance of her Guru Smt Jeyanthi and loving parents Shri Ajay Kumar and Smt. Padmaja was a memorable event. While Bhoomika has demonstrated to one and all how a young mind can excel in academics and fine arts together, her Guru has demonstrated how the rich Indian culture can be protected and spread even in these high-tech, ultra-modern times and environments, through budding talents like Kumari Bhoomika.  The mythological and musical explanations of the Guru and the melodious renditions of the nattuvanga were like Nava rathnas in the Nava Rasa filled superb Bharathanatya performance of Bhoomika. We wish her and her Guru all-time glory.

Of course, there was no one, who did not have a word or two, on every single note. The arangetram will be one of those cherished events, for a long, long time.

Kudos and adieu, Bhoomika and Madam Jeyanthi. May your tribe increase.


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