"When I came here, I was having the impression that Kathak is all about spinning round and round. As I leave now, I learned it is much more than that and now onwards I won't spare another chance to watch a Kathak performance" - Sooraj from IISER was pretty excited after the Kathak lecture demonstration, which was staged as part of the Kathak circuit with Monisa Nayak organized by the Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY), Thiruvananthapuram Chapter. Monisa Nayak, who belongs to the Jaipur Gharana, is a disciple of Kathak exponent Rajendra Kumar Gangani and also a recipient of Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar of Sangeet Natak Akademi. The one week long circuit reached Jawahar Navodaya School, Vithura; Viswabharathi School, Neyyattinkara; Sai Gramam, Melthonnackal; Marian Engineering College, Kazhakkoottam; College of Architecture, Vilappilsala; IISER-CET, Chavadimukku and Centre for Development Studies, Ulloor.
SPIC MACAY circuit programs are different from the usual on-stage performances as the aim is to give an idea of a particular dance form to the young generation. Keeping this in mind, Monisa Nayak planned the available one hour to introduce different aspects of Kathak to the audience. She started her performances at different venues with either a Narayana Stuti, Siva Stuti, Nataraja Stuti or a Ganesa Stuti. Explanation of the word Kathak and the evolution of the art-form from Kathakar's period to present followed. After giving an idea of how the syllables and percussion such as Tabla or Pakhavaj becomes an integral part of Kathak, she moved on to different thukadas, thodas, tatkals and kavits.
The illustration of how the basic mudras from Natya Sastra is used in Kathak to make meaningful words and sentences made the lectures more interesting and meaningful. By asking the audience the meaning of certain gestures and also by encouraging them to join her in portraying the image of Lord Krishna, Monisa tried to get the audience involved in the proceedings. The audience at various venues responded positively and were keen to be a part of the show. They even tried the padan during 'Ginti Ki Tihai', in which numbers are used to form the bols. But as she moved to the higher speeds it also became evident to the viewers that with out a lot of practice it is pretty hard to keep the rhythm flowing.
Excerpts from items such as 'Makhan Chori' illustrating the interactions between Yasoda and Krishna, 'Holi' portraying how Krishna along with Radha celebrated the festival of Holi, a 'Ram Bhajan' based on the story of Sabari, 'Ganes Paran' describing Lord Ganesa and 'Siv Paran' describing Lord Siva were also presented at random on each stage. Segment illustrating the various types of Bhramaris or Chakkars was another attraction which made the audience spellbound. Monisa Nayak's layakari or virtuosity in handling complex rhythms was evident in her presentations. It's no surprise that the presentations were well received by the audience. The concluding part of the performances included Sargam and Jugalbandi.
At the end of each performance, there was an interactive session as well. Some of the questions were related to different Gharanas of Kathak, specialty of Jaipur Gharana to which Monisa belongs, experiments on contemporary Kathak and the like. Monisa Nayak was keen to answer these questions in common man's words and also highlighted how Kathak is different from the other classical dance forms such as Bharatanatyam or Kuchipudi.
Yogesh Gangani on Tabla and Samiullah Khan in Vocal with Harmonium provided ample support to the dancer throughout the circuit. The circuit was coordinated by Remya Nair and Nithin Raj, SPIC MACAY volunteers from Dept. of Communication and Journalism, University of Kerala.