ENTER the war-room of Udaan 2021 at Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts and you will instantly feel as if you are inside a cockpit or staring at the dashboard for some big-bang space mission.
So many cables, so many switches, so many screens, so many faces, so many voices and so many lenses. But one overriding emotion that embraces it all in a giant hug - the courageous spirit to dance despite all the struggles and suffering seen during the Covid crisis.
May be that's why on the surface, this war-room looks like a forest - complex, beautifully-chaotic and buzzing with life. But beneath all this madness, there is a strong and singular purpose - to recognise and celebrate hearts and feet who kept going on even in the toughest years seen by mankind in a century.
Udaan 2021 was conceived some weeks back with this mission. The idea was to keep kids, youth and dedicated students of dance all over the world occupied, galvanised and inspired towards the direction of bouncing back.
But it was not a small feat to execute. As Madhuram Khatri, IT composer of this extraordinary symphony told, the event had a massive scale and a lot of tick-tock moments. "We had to bring participants and judges from different corners of the world on a single platform. We had not just time-zone challenges but also a variety of connectivity issues, bandwidth constraints and sound-quality levels to take care of. We invested a lot of time and effort in finding the right tools of technology. We conducted several mock-drills - internally as well as with the artists - to ensure flawless execution experience on the big day. We were awake for many nights till the T-1 minute."
And when the big moment and day of the Final Jury round came on 25 July 2021, all these endless efforts and hard work started shining super-bright. All the minor, junior and senior rounds progressed with impressive fluidity and seamless impact. Contestants showed their mettle and innovations to the jury from many states of India and many cities of the globe. Many artists stayed awake in their time zones but there was no stopping to their excitement and passion for this event.
It was a lot of adrenaline and a lot of soul. When expert jury members observed and complimented these artists through their performances, the virtual walls came crumbling down. The feeling, vibes and conversations blossomed without any boundaries of distance and time.
The artists also received a lot of tips and pointers by legends like Dr. Uma Sharma ji, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan who has been leading the Bharatiya Sangeet Sadan, Delhi. The jury also consisted of Guru Kaushalya Reddy ji, a distinguished luminary in the domain of Kuchipudi for the senior category.
For Minor and Junior rounds, the jury had stellar experts from India and abroad. Anuradha Nag, Founder, Artistic Director, Taringini School of Kathak Dance, joined the event from San Jose, USA. Sonia Sharma, Bollywood Dance Instructor joined from Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Manchester UK.
Despite her hectic schedule Saloni Khanna Patel, a talented TV and Web series actor and model also contributed a lot of time and warm support in the jury.
When former Grasim Mr. India and YRF heartthrob, Movie star Viraf Patel came in to encourage the artists, he spread his charismatic cheer and reminded young kids to be a good human being first if they aim to be a good artist. “The truth is always in the eyes. It shines. It talks. It goes far.” He stressed.
This observation was poignant and was echoed by Hridaya Khatri, who has been leading the content team and operations for Udaan; and is also an accomplished Kathak performer herself. "The pandemic has been a jolt on many fronts but the good part that we can learn here is that the world has melted together on a virtual equator. Now there are no limits to a talented, passionate, dedicated and rigorous artist - nothing geographical, economical, time-wise or in terms of existing-skill level can stop a good artist. Anyone with the hunger and the grit to fly high, can do so easily now."
And fly they did. The event saw a really tough competition among all finalists. The results were difficult to arrive at as the jury shared; but this iterated the breadth and depth of talent as seen in the event. In Minor category, first prize has been awarded to Ayushi Sarkar from West Bengal, second to Vedantika Nath from Assam, and third to Arya Tanushri from Delhi. In the Junior category, Mugu Kamakshi took the first prize from Hyderabad, Gauri Prakash from UP got the second award and Aishwarya R from Karnataka won the third position. In the senior group, Nrityshri Vijayan from Oman won the first position, and Mimasa Verma from Karnataka got the second prize. Winners have been awarded with financial as well as expert recognition now. A special aspect of Udaan-2021 is that the Gurus of all these winners would also be recognised.
As Dr. Saroj Sharma, Director, Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts and the Creative head of the event reflected, "We took on an ambitious mission to conduct an event from Udaipur. Its scale, reach and impact is massive. I am really overwhelmed and encouraged by the constant outpouring of love and interest from these artists from the USA to the Middle East, from the East of India to the South of the country. We have just witnessed an unbelievable proof of top-notch talent present in so many cities of India. I cannot express my joy to see that students, specially kids, are putting in so much 'Riyaas' and love in learning various classical dances. It was an attempt to nurture and find out the quintessence of positivity, resilience, purpose and human spirit. We will continue this journey and celebrate this passion in future years too."
Notably, the event was a Covid Charity event and a substantial contribution has been made towards the CM Covid Relief efforts. “The event was a joint initiative of PMCH, Udaipur and Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts, Udaipur,” said Shloka Agarwal, Co-ordinator, Udaan.
Participants represented various genres of Dance from Maharashtra, Delhi, UP, Assam, West Bengal, Hyderabad, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Canada, Virginia, Washington, Chicago, Manchester-UK and Oman.
With this high-scale, global-outreach and completely-virtual endeavour now successfully executed, Udaipur has just shown a beautiful example of making the impossible possible. The flight however, will travel far and wide. Because the war-room is already thinking of ideas for Udaan 2022. Better. Bigger. Higher.