The speed of her spins and her unique Ghoongroo bandish makes her stand out from the rest. For her performance at Balgandharva Rangamandir on Tuesday as part of the ongoing Pune Festival, V Anuradha Singh, Kathak exponent from Bhopal, had prepared special surprises for the audience, she said, when we caught up with her before her concert. “Apart from the normal bandishes, I will be performing Ghoongroo bandish, which is my specialty. It will be completely new for the audience here,” said Singh.
Talking about how Kathak performed in north India is different from the Kathak in Maharashtra, Singh says, “It’s very different. Kathak of Raigarh gharana is very different because of the time duration. Bandishes performed in other gharanas are not more than 15 secs whereas the bandish I perform from Raigarh gharana lasts for one minute. There is a lot of foot work in this gharana, unlike others. Also the most important part is the spins. We use a lot of spins, varieties of spins. I spin 40 times in 17 seconds, so in one performance, I have 800 to 900 spins, which is what makes our Kathak different. As compared to other gharanas, Raigarh gharana has the oldest bols, they are as old as 200 years, therefore it makes the gharana very different,” she says.
The other thing that sets Raigarh gharana apart is that it has Ghoongroo bandish. “Other Kathak dancers don’t have long Ghoongroo sequences, they just have bits of it, whereas my performance consists of five minutes of Ghoongroo sequence,” says Singh.
This is Singh’s second time at the fest. She had first performed at the fest in 2006. Over the years, she has performed all across the globe and most importantly, she is an empanelled solo Kathak artist in the Outstanding category of Indian Cultural Relation (ICR).
“I learnt Kathak in the guru-shishya tradition. When I started training, we had to practise for eight hours at a stretch. There were sequences where we had to move our feet non-stop. We put in a lot of hard work and that is why I am here today,” says Singh who trained under the Late Pt Kartikram and Pt Ramlal, gurus of Raigarh gharana Kathak in Chakradhar centre, Bhopal.
She rues the fact that the tradition has changed a lot today. “People hardly have time to invest. So the sessions don’t last beyond two hours. The concept has completely changed now,” she observes.
She feels that people are opting for shortcuts instead of going through the required struggle. Also the constant experimentation in this dance is making it lose its authenticity, she feels. “You cannot pick up someone’s work and add a few of your bits and pieces and call it yours. Kathak is all about originality. You have to make your track and give your own lyrics to it and compose the music. A complete dancer should be original and everything they put together for their performance should be their own,” says Singh.
This doesn’t mean the artist is averse to experimentation or anything new. In fact, she feels there are many good things happening with this dance form too. “Internet is spreading the awareness of our dance form. When I started dancing, we didn’t have any platform to put up our work, unlike now. Today, you can use the internet and showcase your talent to the world. And Kathak is something that unless and until you watch it, you will not be able to understand the beauty of it. So it is very important to watch the dance form,” she says.
The artist admits that internet has helped her a lot. “Today I have 100 students learning Kathak from me. I had a student from Sri Lanka who saw my work on the internet and came to Madhya Pradesh to learn the dance form. She stayed there for a month and learnt to perform,” Singh points out.