Montreal, May 25th 2010
While in Kolkata I revaluated and reassessed so many aspects of the big city and Bengali culture during this past sojourn. It has been somewhat of a rediscovery and, possibly a discovery.
Still, and this is the purpose of this letter, I want to focus on what, I see a person and a role. This Mamata’s role, as well as Bans, both of them being so closely knit together! I had, for quite a long time, I had known US Krishna Rao’s particular affection and esteem for one of his most brilliant disciple. When in Bengalore, he had talked to me, several times of the girl coming from the north to learn dance in the south. I do not think that for many persons, in the field of Indian dance US Krishna Rao and Mamata N. Nakra represents a unique continuity.
Naturally, I have known, and for a long time, Mamata, the dancer who devoted talents and energy to teaching animation and educational innovation.
I shall always remember some of the most exquisite Ranga Praveshes that you guided to fruition and perfect bloom and I knew, as well, the international recognition you have gain through out North America, in the West Indies and in Europe. Not to mention New Delhi, where you got a deserve regard in a city difficult to win over for what concerns Bharata Natya.
Now, after these three weeks in Kolkata, I have to come to understand still another dimension. Day after day, I could notice how many persons from the wide diversity of the arts fields where coming to visit you in order to get opinions, advices, inspiration and of course actual training. More and more, during the weeks afterward I have been looking back on the contents of my stay along with you both. Now I have a wider vision of your endeavour and achievements.
Early in the XXth century, the old Bharata Natya masters undertook the transfer of an art that had been secluded within the temples confines into the secular art world. US Krishna Rao has been instrumental in this respect. Then I read Rukmini Devi biography. This grand lady has achieved a lot but, as I see it now, and with full respect for such a person, my feeling is that her role has been limited by her life environment. Let me explain further. She was not a fully trained dancer of Bharata Natya, but this is not so much of a draw back, the old masters were not dancers themselves.
It seems to me that her early marriage to a much older man had a double impact on her art vision. Age first, indeed. But second, and possibly more of a consequence this Mr. Arundel belong to the Victorian upper classes and he was imbued with theosophy… a concern that does not support the fanciest parts of life possibly, and this is my feeling, Rukmini Devi developed a form of art slanted to idealized forms, in a some what detachment of the spontaneous joy of human life and feelings.
Here those come Mamata’s N. Nakra role as I see it now. By stressing the need of a return to the Pantanallur style you want to rediscover, should I say, to retrieve the vigorous and vitality of the living artist. After all, the ladies performing in Bh. Nat. in the late XIXth century were possibly, obsessed by religious spirituality all the time. This is, as I understand it, your role and influence; you want to restore, re-establish with the Pantanallur style, the full contents and meanings that Bh. Nat. can take from human feelings to bring them blooming into the art form of classical Indian dance. No doubt, US Krishna Rao would express his support and regards.
Personally and by professional training I do not belong to the art community but I’m an art loving person, and as such if I have no authority what’s so ever, I may have opinions. I let them be known quite directly; for all of Mamata N. Nakra’s achievements in these past 25 years I have been an attentive and careful observer. Just before my greetings, I want to add regarding Bans that me had had an engineer training but by spending time with him and talking to him, he does seems to me to be a philosopher in the first place. With my warm regard to you both Bans and Mamata