Do you want to do ‘Chintan’ or do you want to do ‘Manan’? Are you sure that finding ‘Manoranjan’ will be enough? Why do you not seek ‘Anand’ instead?
Tough questions - but right questions. And guess who was nudging us to ponder over these important choices?
Yes, Pt. Rajendra Gangani (a renowned and veteran Kathak Maestro), who is the disciple and son of Pt. Kundanlal Gangani Ji, was in Udaipur. And in a brief, but beautiful, conversation with some ardent Kathak lovers in the city, he shared so many gems of wisdom that can be applied to both art and life.
He espouses the Jaipur ‘Gharana’ and is among the Hall of Fame of rare Indians who have performed solo in Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, the Festival of India in USSR etc. He has been adorned with numerous accolades like the ‘Sangeet Raj’, ‘Shastriya Natya Shiromani’, and the prestigious ‘Sangeet Natya Akademy Award’ (by The President of India, Hon’ble Shri A P J Abdul Kalam).
Incidentally, Guru Rajendra is an avid, and seasoned, proponent of a distinct style of Kathak. As someone who says he is learning at every workshop and every stage and with every student he comes across – he truly shines for his humility, deep grip on the art and his passion for life-long learning.
He dismissed the idea that today’s online tools and technologies can fully replace the power and direction of a Guru. When asked about what would he advise today’s classical dance learners, he said, “Do find the right Guru. Never assume that any crash course or You Tube video can teach you the depth and pure form of this art. You have to create a bond with the Guru. Just enrolling for a class will not suffice. It is not a skill like coding or car-engineering. It is ‘Saadhna’. You have to fall in love with this art and practise it your whole life. Having the right Guru and forming a deep allegiance to that Guru can give you the right direction – in the class and outside it, always.”
Guru Rajendra also wields other strengths that align beautifully with his core focus. He is an accomplished musician, composer of tunes, with a rare mastery over instruments like tabla, harmonium, pakhawaj, etc. He has an inimitable grasp on both the kinetics and aesthetics of dance. He has created some remarkable themes like Leele-Varnan, Raag Vistaar, Tribandhi, Sargam, Zhalak, Srijan, Kavitakriti, Maharaas, Parikrama etc.
He has been directing dance compositions on social themes like environmental pollution (titled Prakriti), and has also attempted fusion of Kathak and Mohini Attam, as also a merger of Kathak and Bharatanatyam. Talking on that aspect of his art, he shared that experimentation has always stimulated his creative juices. “What is challenging in these fusions is the uncompromising need to keep the purity of ‘taals’ and core structure of each dance-form intact while also blending it with the other form in a seamless way. Preserving the innate elements and still innovating – that’s not easy but that’s the creative flight.”
The founders and students of Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts met and felicitated this veteran and took this opportunity of being bestowed his blessings and guidance. Dr. Saroj Sharma, Director had an interesting conversation with him too where it became evident that accomplished and ace artists of Indian Classical genre are always eager to learn and collaborate. As Guru Rajendra underlined, “True artists are like free birds or a waft of fragrant breeze. They cannot be trapped in boxes or barriers. They are always ready to meet like-minded birds and fly higher.” These veterans also discussed various contemporary issues like – the blight of commercialisation and shallow crash-courses that have started dotting this space.