Pandit Chitresh Das in Concert January 2010
Following the three days of ITC SRA’s Sangeet Sammelan at Kolkata in early January, a special evening was added on, for the classical dance loving public of Kolkata, dedicated to a unique artist, who has taken India’s classical tradition to the world. On January 15th, ITC SRA presented the dynamic feet, dazzling rhythms and decades of excellence embodied by the son of Bengal, Pandit Chitresh Das. Pandit Das performed to a packed audience comprising of some of India’s most respected, notable artists, including Vidushi Girija Devi, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan, Pandit Shankar Ghosh and Pandit Bachan Lal Mishra, to name a few.
Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty’s introduction was one of the most profound descriptions of Pandit Das. He described Pandit Das not only as one of Bengal’s living legends, but also prayed that Panditji would live for another hundred years, so that he may continue his work for the generations to come. And so, the concert began on such a warm, welcoming note.
The performance began with Pandit Das’ signature Shiva Vandhana, Hare Hare Mahadeva. He entered the stage majestically holding an offering of flowers and incense, singing, dancing, and invoking the power of Lord Shiva, accompanied by musicians Pandit Ramesh Misra, on sarangi, Sri Abhijit Banerjee on tabla, Sri Jayanta Banerjee on sitar, and Sri Debashish Sarkar on vocal, and Amitavo Majumdar on sarod.
His thaat was marked with lightning -fast flourishes of footwork ending in crisp karanths that took the audience’s breath away. He performed bandishes from both the Lucknow and Jaipur gharana. His signature chakkars were highlighted in an old Jaipur bandish jaga jaga tunjey where he made five sounds with the left foot while creating the effect of akash chari.
He proceeded to dance in a fascinating 12 and a half Taal. The element of ‘upaj’ was dominant throughout the concert. His 12 ½ beat Taal, in a dhamaar ‘ang’ was intricate and exciting for Das and for all the musicians attempting to follow along. Replete with all the elements of a traditional Kathak solo, Pandit Das joyously danced tihais, without anyone reciting for him, including a farmaishi chakradar tihai and a kamali chakradar tihai. The aura of joy was created by the exchange between Das, the musicians and the audience.
His variety and ingenuity were at times stunning. There was one particular bandish where Pandit Das recited tabla bols, in a dhamaar ang, where sam is ‘kat,’ so he ended with his left foot. Emulating the tabla players, where ‘kat’ is played with the left hand, Pt. Das ended his 12 ½ beat ‘dhamaar ang’ creation taal on his left foot – the abruptness of the arrival of sam left all on the edge of their seats.
He then performed, without any accompaniment from the musicians, an evolution in the dance called Kathak Yoga. Here yoga refers to the Sanskrit word meaning union of mind and body. Kathak yoga is a ground breaking innovation within tradition where he played tabla in one taal and performed with his feet different chhands, singing the nagma and playing theka, all simultaneously bringing these traditional elements into harmony. This piece has been the subject of a dissertation at Harvard University. In this particular piece, he not only played tabla, but danced and sang, giving the impression of pure sadhana.
He then introduced Jason Samuels Smith, an Emmy-Award winning tap dancer who toured with him to sold-out audiences throughout India. In an electrifying sawal jawab, the exchange between Smith’s taps and Das’ footwork were full of speed, clarity, power, and joy.
He then performed Madan Bhasma, in raag Shivaranjani in Japtala. Here he portrayed Parvati’s dance in lasya ang with tremendous Khubsurti and nazakat. He then showed the sringara ras of Madan and Rati in raag Basant Bahar and then through tayyari and layakari he showed Lord Shiva’s anger burning Madan to ashes. The four elements of khubsurti, nazakat, tayyari and layakari were presented in a full length gat bhav incorporating the concept of Ardhanarishwara.
He ended his concert with Maha Prabhu Sri Krishna to the audience’s demand where he brought a pure bhakti ras. He intertwined the classical Lucknow gharana na dhi dhi na footwork at a high speed matching with Abhijit Banerjee’s hands, sound for sound. He concluded his performance with a final pranam and as he raised his head, he was blessed and honored with a standing ovation from the learned and eminent crowd.
The energy between Das, the audience and the musicians was truly magical. And the joyous and enthusiastic appreciation by all made the occasion a fitting finale to ITC SRA’s extended sammelan week.