Indian artists come together to express their support for Pulwama martyrs through art
While Indian defence forces and paramilitary troops guard, protect and nurture our borders, it is assorted components of civil society that align their strength and standing to augment the war or anti-terrorism effort.
Shovana Narayan, that ebullient, excellent star Kathak artiste beyond compare and a seasoned communicator and organiser (remember the grand Opening Ceremony of CWG? under her charge?), with maverick genius artist and promoter Naresh Kapuria, hosted a huge gathering of 'Artistes for Pulwama' initiative recently at IIC, Delhi. Top brass of CRPF, it's DG no less and IIC Director Shrivastav, plus media and artistes from all walks of life came about to pay homage to soldiers, both departed and standing. In a seamless evening of clockwork precision, 25 top names in the field of arts assembled to pay tributes, respect or homage to our soldiers, in the aftermath of Pulwama.
Over the decades, Indian artists have always shown support to war effort. Uday Shankar and Ram Gopal were pioneers who went to interiors to perform and entertain the soldiers. Yog Sunder made a career out of choreographing and performing for soldiers in camps and must have done over 1000 shows in 50 year period. Sharan Rani, the only lady Sarod player also often performed for the army and who can forget iconic Lata Mangeshkar singing for the soldiers. Her "Mere Watan Ke Logo" still resonates with all generations. Sachin Shankar, Narendra Sharma, Shekharan Panikar have all taken troupes in remote area to bring joy to soldiers. Classical dancers from seniors like Sonal Mansingh, Indrani, Kamala have all danced for the army. Kiran Sehgal, Ranjana Gaur and many others have performed for the army either in border areas or at Republic Day. Indian artists have risen to the times and need of the nation .
On this occasion, Shovana Narayan had linked each speaker or performer with poetry, she had made effort of compiling and in her austere off white with gold sari, she looked like the soothing spring that was in the air around Holi festivities.
First was youngest artiste, (95 year old) Shanno Khurana who sang what Rani Chhabra had recited intensely. Next, Bharati Shivaji paid tribute through Mohiniattam. Madhup Mudgal showed why the school of music his father Pt. Vinay Chandra Maudgalya founded was doing so well. His bhajan was sonorous and almost selfless. Aruna Vasudeva next paid tributes to soldiers after which Geeta Chandran the Bharatanatyam dancer, proved to be an electrifying presence. Like Yamini used to be. Geeta has stage presence backed with first rate material. Yours truly recalled his family's own association with the army with grandfather and aunts serving as doctors and then suggested young India to have NCC type conscription, so more discipline is inculcated. He ended with Jai Hind, that resonated with all assembled who loudly echoed that. Pratibha Prahlad next, is a magnificent artiste on stage, with fluid abhinaya and a joyous face. There is magnetism about her.
Madhavi Mudgal next showed why she is tops in Odissi, as aesthetics and execution is of high standards. Sushama Seth the fine actress looked most distinguished and elegant and spoke briefly, reciting a couplet.
Ranjana Gauhar sprang a surprise with a group of students, coming from the wings, with lit diyas and offering a fine. tribute. Rama Pandey was all force reciting her poetry , wherein while she praised the forces, in second half she castigated the civil society as being uncivil. Hers was a rendition from the heart.
Octogenerian Saroja Vaidyanathan shared emotions of a mother before war and after. Geetanjali Lal took all back to her college days when in 1965 war with Pakistan, planes flew over her head in Kashmir. Vidya Shah sang Narsi Mehta's Vaishnav Janto with a open-throated voice while Lavlin Tandon read out two touching letters, one from a dying soldier who listed 5 points for his family to follow and one from a troop leader whose mother made the ultimate sacrifice of not even claiming her son's body from enemy soil. Sharon Lowen used Omkara karini to illustrate her tribute.
Alka Raghuvanshi arts writer- curator, was direct, to the point and an effective communicator.
Sadhana Shrivastava read out a poetry from Nalini Kamlini while Raja Radha Reddy's thoughts were read out by Rashmi Vaishalingam who added her own too.
Sunit Tandon in the end read few poems and was effective. Shovana conducted with elan without once qualifying the speaker and thus could host the entire evening to the dot. Sonal Mansingh, despite her performance at Odia Parba at India Gate, rushed to join. In the end, Naresh Kapuria and Shovana presented the scroll all artistes had signed to the DG of CRPF, Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar.
The evening brought many sections of the society together and touched a chord in all. Arms and the men and women of art field came together in a most meaningful way. It was a sombre, dignified and an emotional evening.