BSDC Nayak Fellow Nishant Panicker digs deep into the course experience and describes how much the weekly Zoom sessions have helped him explore the work in a deeper, more meaningful way.
When I first heard about the Nayak Bhed workshop being taught online by Guru Pratap Pawar ji, I was a bit sceptical about how much I would be able to learn and comprehend. In just a few classes, my whole outlook changed. The kind of detail and nuance Guruji brings to teaching is truly invaluable. In each session so far, we have explored different aspects of the 15-minute-long choreography that is around 50 years old. In the first session, Guruji introduced us to the three main characters that are portrayed in this piece - DhIraprashAnta Raghu nayak (Rama), DhIralalit Yadhu nayak (Krishna) and DhIrodhatta Khal nayak (Kans). What struck me from this session was how beautiful it was that I was learning a piece which had been composed and created half a century ago, with the music and choreography preserved. Guruji instructed us from very early on that the lighting be set up in a certain way and that our costumes strictly be white in colour in order for the choreography to come out in its full glory.
A calm and composed Shri Rama, a cruel and vindictive Kansa and a light-hearted and romantic Krishna, as interpreted by BSDC Nayak fellow Nishant Panicker
As the sessions progressed, it became apparent that while grasping the Angik abhinaya was hard, being able to portray the Satvik abhinaya was much harder. For me personally, Guruji’s exposition of how he uses a personal dialogue to bring out the Satvik abhinaya really struck a chord. Though Guruji’s reference videos have been extremely helpful to get a basic understanding of the choreography, it is the weekly Zoom sessions that have really helped me explore the content in a deeper, more meaningful way. In one of our weekly sessions, we were practising a section of the piece Ahilya uddhar in which we portray one of the Panchakanyas, Ahilya, the story of how she is deceived by Lord Indra and cursed by the sage Gautama to be turned to stone for thousands of years until redeemed by the touch of Lord Rama’s foot. In this section, Guruji’s transition between multiple characters Gautama, Ahilya and Rama was so awe-inspiring that I remember feeling chills when I watched his video reference.
In the Zoom class, he focussed on the smaller nuances; details like which side of the room Indra and Ahilya were present at upon being discovered by Gautama, how Ahilya’s expression changes from a mixture of fear and surprise to pain when being turned to stone and how drastic the transformation between Ahilya and Rama is. In my limited ten years of learning dance, I have yet to see anyone break down abhinaya with as much finesse and relevance as Guruji has done in this workshop. What has also really touched me is how Guruji takes it upon himself to notice, observe and correct every single student in the class - this is quite difficult to do in the context of online learning. I truly do feel blessed and humbled to get the opportunity to learn from Guru Pratap Pawar ji.
Not only have the sessions enabled me to work on my bhaav, I have also learnt a lot about the ancient epics as well as about Guruji's dance journey. Towards the end of the sessions, Guruji shares small anecdotes from his life that provide incredible insights into the world of Kathak.
Besides these little gems, interesting conversations and talks by Balbir ji and Sunil ji have taken the workshop a level further from just a platform to learn a timeless piece of dance, to a platform wherein students can share their experiences of dance, learn about the confluence of different art forms and have open conversations about the workshop content. In these trying times, attending the Nayak Bhed workshop has given me a consistent way to keep up my practice, continue to learn, and stay excited and engaged with the art of Kathak.
Nishant Panicker, one of the BSDC Nayak Fellows