In a performance filled with colour and vibrancy, Jayanti Mala paid tribute to her mother and guru, the late Sitara Devi, at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Wednesday. The Kathak legend passed away in November last year.
Jayanti paid tribute using Sitara Devi’s iconic device, the chaturanga. The chaturanga and tarana were traditionally classical vocal forms, interpreted as dance by Sitara Devi. On Wednesday, Jayanti performed with her students a chaturanga of her own composition.
Poised as gopis, with Jayanti wearing a green dupatta that had once belonged to her mother, the dancers entreated Lord Krishna to come and play with them.
“The chaturanga was a way of wooing a deity. Now that my mother is of the firmament, I was calling for her blessings too,” said Jayanti. “Sitara Devi was iconic in the field of Kathak and I hope to carry on her tradition in a new mould.”
Jayanti’s daughter, 23-year-old Rishika Mishra, performed next, to a soundtrack of trance, taking Kathak to a different level.
“My grandmother believed in me and always motivated me to dance,” she said.
Jayanti added that her grandfather defied social convention to teach his three daughters Kathak at a time when it was considered unfit for women from good families. “Now, my daughter and I want to experiment to keep Kathak in tune with the changing times,” she said.
For the audience, the tribute was a memorable treat.
“Sitara Devi was world-famous and I have seen her performance on television. It was wonderful to see her daughter perform,” said RG Nitnaware, 53, a Kalyan resident who works at the Vidhan Sabha. His colleague RM Sardar, 55, said that it was just such performances that brought him back to the festival year after year. “It’s great that such performances are free for all at this festival,” he said.
Added banking executive Santosh Todur, 31, another regular at KGAF: “I was introduced to the energetic classical dance forms only this year. Enjoying this open-air spectacle makes me want to catch more of it in the future.”