City dancer makes it to ‘Rongoprobesh’

Bangladesh sees dance recital with live music for the first time.

Bangalore, March 13, 2018: Bharatanatyam dancer Kirti Ramgopal along with young dancers from Bangladesh participated in the Bangladesh Dance Festival, ‘Rongoprobesh’. The event was held in Dhaka as part of a cultural exchange programme between the two countries and attended by the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

‘Rongoprobesh’ 2018, is a dance festival organised by ‘Shadhona’, a cultural organisation based in Bangladesh. The two-day dance festival was held after a gap of three years and solely focused on Bharatanatyam.

Kirti Ramgopal says, “We had seven young dancers between the ages of 11 and 13 who took part in the dance festival. The festival was important because it was the first time that the dancers and the audience at Bangladesh were exposed to live Carnatic music, because the last time the festival happened in 2015, musicians from Calcutta were supposed to take part but plans fell through and they could not make it.”

“It was also the first time that Aarthi Ahmed, a Bharatanatyam dancer from Bangladesh had returned to the country after training in Calcutta for five years, and she performed ‘Varnam’, which is considered the most difficult Bharatanatyam dance recital because of its intricacies”, she added.

Ramgopal was accompanied by Carnatic vocalist, Nandakumar Unnikrishnan, percussionist Janardhan Rao and flutist, Karthik Sathavalli.

Lubna Marium, the Artistic Director of Shadhona and Principal at Kalpatoru says, “Since its inception on August 30, 2008, the dance school, Kolpotoru has come a long way. Presently ‘Kolpotoru’ conducts dance classes in Dhaka, at its main branch in Banani and at the Aga Khan Center in Basundhara Residential Area.   Dance classes are also conducted in the port city of Chittagong, under the aegis of ‘Fulki’.  Furthermore, Kolpotoru conducts Manipuri Dance and ‘Pung’ classes in Ghoramara Village of Komolganj for the Manipuri Community, as part of the ‘Dhrumel’ project with Manipuri Theatre.

Kolpotoru is also the Registered Examination Center of the West Bengal Dance Group Federation (WBDGF), and has been conducting Dance Exams since 2013.”

Talking about the programme, Marium said, “On the first day of the festival a solo Bharatanatyam ‘Margam’ was presented by upcoming dancer Arthy Ahmed, who has just returned from India after completing five years of dance training.  The next day the students of Kolpotoru presented group and duet Bharatanatyam items.  They were accompanied by live music by four eminent visiting artistes from Bangalore, led, on the Natuvangam by dancer and choreographer Kirti Ramgopal who designed the entire Festival and trained all the dancers.”

Bangalore based musician, Nandakumar Unnikrishnan, presented an exquisite rendition of Mahaganapathim and Bho Shambho.

Unnikrishnan, who was visiting the country for the first time, said, “I think this was a wonderful platform for cultural exchange between the two countries, because the audience in Bangladesh has never been exposed to Carnatic music in its true sense, as a result of these concerts we are expecting an increase in the number of Bangladeshi students who are eager to learn music and take it up as a profession.”

Ramgopal further says that various artists have approached the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh to allow students in the country for an exchange programme. “If this works out we can hope to have more of these dance festivals and make the art form reach a wider audience”, she said.

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Russian play ‘Swan Lake’ to be adapted in the City

Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore to witness ‘Hansika,’ Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s adaption of ‘Swan Lake’

Bangalore, March 20, 2018: ‘Hansika’ an Odissi dance performance based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Russian play, ‘Swan Lake’ will be performed by renowned Odissi dancer, Sharmilla Mukherjee at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram.

Sharmilla Mukherjee, a master of the art form said, “Foreign plays have often been adapted in Indian theatres, but classical dance has generally revolved around traditional stories. This is one of the first attempts at introducing western themes in classical dance”.

Mukherjee will be performing this play with 19 other dancers based out of Bangalore.

Abhaya Laxmi, one of her accompanists said, “We have been working on this performance since last year, it is a dance ballet that includes all the nuances of the classical dance like raga, laya and rasa. Some parts of the music have been taken from Tchaikovsky’s original play but we have heavily Indianised most parts of the play.”

Suranjana, another dancer accompanying Sharmilla in this performance, said that the same play was also performed by a Mohiniattam dancer but they used  Tchaikovsky’s music in its entirety. “We on the other hand have modified the play to make it more suitable for the Indian audience,”  she added.

Talking about foreign adaptations in classical dance, Suranjana added that Birju Maharaj had also once presented a Kathak ensemble on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Odissi, which is a classical dance form of Odisha has now become quite popular in Bangalore, said Sharmilla Mukherjee who also runs a dance school in the city.

Online shopping sites fall victim to GST driven panic

Bangalore, November 21, 2017:Siddapur taluk in the district of Uttara Kannada, is among the laggards in providing access to water, especially safe drinking water.

According to the Human Development Report of Uttara Kannada district, the government of India (Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation) has fixed a norm of 40 liters of water per capita per day (lpcd) as the minimum requirement of a person. The Government of Karnataka aims at providing water at 55 lpcd in rural areas from different water supply schemes. Around two-thirds of habitations in Uttara Kannada do not get drinking water as per the national norm of 40 lpcd. This percentage in Siddapur is as high as 90 per cent.

Only 27.44 per cent of the houses in the district are served by piped water supply.

Manjunath Naik, a daily wage labourer in Doddamane said, “We don’t have a piped water connection. We have to draw water from a well. Four to five families depend on a single well. The situation gets worse during the summer when the well dries up. Access to drinking water will be become easy if they give us a water connection. They’ve tried implementing this before but it has failed.”

Even though Gram Panchayats across the taluk have laid pipelines for drinking water, they are riddled with issues. The report says the real problem seems to be in the distribution pipes, which are broken at some points. Only if Gram Panchayats can repair and maintain the pipelines, the scheme can benefit the villagers.

“Around Rs. 10-15 lakhs were spent to put in pipes, pumps, etc. to provide piped drinking water to the people of Dodmane. It’s been two years and not one house has seen drinking water coming in,” said Dasa Naik, a shopkeeper from Hasinagudi. “They took Rs. 500 from us. You only see 20-30 per cent of the sanctioned money in terms of utilization. Shouldn’t at least 70-80 per cent of the sanctioned money be spent? The rest has gone into their pockets, it seems.”

Datt Naik, a shopkeeper in Doddamane, said, “This village has plenty of water. We have pipelines and also ‘jari neeravi’. But, the problem is, there’s no implementation due to poor administration. That’s why there’s no piped supply of water.”

Health risks due to lack of access to safe drinking water is also a major concern. A few parts of Siddapur taluk have fluoride content exceeding the safe limit of 1.5 mg and some parts in the taluk show higher concentration of nitrate in the groundwater, the report says.

According to the Human Development Report report, a vast majority of the households, in Karnataka (66 per cent) depend on tap water for drinking purposes and only 9 per cent depend on wells (covered and uncovered well). But, in Uttara Kannada, open well is the main source of drinking water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), open wells are not a good source for drinking purposes because in the rainy season open wells are flooded with rain water and waste water. Siddapur taluk is the second highest in terms of the proportion of drinking water coming from uncovered wells.

If you take into account covered and uncovered sources, around 80.2 per cent of households have some form of access to drinking water in Uttara Kannada. But, open wells excluded, the share of households getting drinking water comes down to 32 per cent.

New UK Visa Centre does not raise hopes

Bangalore, November 22, 2017: The United Kingdom immigration minister has set up a new Visa Application Centre (VAC) in Whitefield, but IT employees in the city feel it would not be of major help.
“Visa regulations have become stricter and visas are granted for long term positions only after there is adequate diligence on lack of locally available talent”, says Sourabh Mukherjee, Vice President at Accenture.
Achyuth Rasale, Technology Analyst at Infosys said “Our employees in Bangalore are not excited about the new VAC as ultimately many visas gets rejected. After the restrictions on the H1B visa, hardly any employees work abroad. We have seen a decrease in number of people going to UK and US to work”.
There are a huge number of visas getting rejected as foreign companies are recruiting local talent, so the opening of new VAC does not mean that the number of employees going to UK is increasing says Mukherjee.
VAC makes the application process easier but the fundamental issue is that the employees are not getting opportunities to go abroad anymore. And in any case applicants seeking UK/US visas would need to demonstrate superior skills in new and emerging technology areas like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Automation etc where local talents would be hard to find,” said Sourabh Mukherjee.

Don’t club theatre with cinemas on GST says founder of Jagriti Theatre,

Swarnali_Performingarts4Bangalore, January 18, 2018: English theatre groups are asking the government to remove performing arts from the entertainment tax because it is not fair to include commercial movies and theatre in the same tax slab. Theatre does not get the kind of investment that a commercial movie gets, they say, adding that regional language theatre groups are not suffering losses under the GST regime because their ticket prices are not above Rs. 249.
The performing arts sector has suffered a setback due to the 18 per cent GST on ticket prices. Jagriti theatre along with various other artists from all over the country feel the government‘s move will only lead to classical art forms losing its popularity.
Jagdish Raja, founder of the Jagriti theatre, says, we had asked the government to remove GST on performing arts. They are charging 18 per cent on tickets priced over Rs 249. The government could impose taxation on the amount exceeding Rs 249 but they are not doing that. This is making the whole performing arts sector very expensive. The regional language drama gets away because the ticket prices are anyway not more than Rs 150 to 200, but the real problem is being faced by the English drama theatres.
We have been forced to file GST and employ a chartered accountant for the purpose, which we feel is not right. Which is why we had filed a petition where almost 3,000 theatre personalities had given their signatures, he added.

The same sentiment was supported by Guru Datha of the We Move Theatre who also added,   theatres at large did not have any entertainment tax previously. Now, along with GST each state body has been given their freedom to impose any kind of extra tax on this 18 per cent which is called the state tax.  This requires a lot of paperwork because we need to file GST and then GST returns and I don’t think the performing theatre groups and artists will be willing to do this kind of paperwork.
Jimmy Xaviers, a theatre artist who has been working for almost 20 years said, I think the filing of a petition against the GST is justified and I support it. Because I have been doing theatre for about 18 to 20 years now, I know that theatre groups don’t generally make any money with just ticket sale. Whatever money we make just goes to put the production together and that too after doing multiple shows. It’s an expensive affair, renting the theatre, costumes, lights and we have to put in our own money. The performing arts is a large industry. So putting movies and theatres in the same bracket is very unfair. If performing arts is not moved out of this bracket, the number of people putting up shows will gradually decrease because nobody wants to suffer a loss. So this is a plea going out to the government asking them to reconsider their decision.
“When I started doing theatre 20 years ago at that time the ticket price was Rs 200 which has remained the same unless there is a celebrity doing the show.  But 10 years ago the production cost was cheaper but now all other prices have gone up but if we still keep the ticket price at Rs 200 we will obviously incur losses. So that is why we have increased the ticket price just a little bit to cut our losses”, he added.
The Chairman of FKCCI (Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry,) I.S Prasad has said that because theatre also comes under entertainment it has to be taxed under the 18 per cent GST bracket.
The 18 per cent GST on performing arts has not only affected theatre groups but individual artists as well.
Noted Kathak dancer and senior disciple of Pt. Birju Maharaj, Saswati Sen said, “Kathak is a classical form of art and needs to be recognized and encouraged because the country needs the representation of this culture. We have always requested the government to give classical arts the encouragement and representation it needs. In this regard, the GST has obviously not helped us. I think the government should take an overall review of their decision to impose 18 per cent GST.”

Kathak maestro Shovana Narayan says, we are living in times when classical forms of art need more and more encouragement. I feel the government should not impose tax on performing arts because we do not want to be involved in numbers.  The government should encourage these art forms because this is the tradition of India.
Bangalore based Bharatanatyam dancer, Kirti Ramgopal said, it’s a big blow for us dancers specifically, because earnings for dancers are pretty bleak, but when we rent theatres, they want an extra GST on the rent, the videographer wants GST and it is the same with our costumes and jewellery. So not only the tickets, but also everything that we buy for a show is already taxed, on top of that the audience is asked to pay another  18 per cent on ticket. This has really affected the footfall in art shows and dance performances throughout the country.
Jagriti theatre and a few other theatre groups in the city have not given up on their protest against the taxation on performing arts and are planning to organise a dialogue with the government about the GST on performing arts.

News Or Views

This is a period of transition. A change is coming, a change that will completely alter journalism the way we know it today.

As a student of journalism I have been told time and again, that news needs to be facts only. I agree. Journalism needs to be facts only. I disagree.

The main story needs to be all facts, true but when we are presenting the news to the audience and I will focus only on broadcast news, it needn’t be facts only. Now I’m not saying it should be opinions and sensationalization of facts but I feel it should be an amalgam of facts and opinions.

The audience today is empowered and much more aware than it was a decade ago. The audience already reads the facts in the morning newspaper. What we are looking for is a direction of thought, a need to feel the pulse of the country. This is not possible through a robotic narration of facts like the old Doordarshan days when someone would just read the news and get it over with.

Journalists have the wondrous power to be heard by the masses. This tool should be made full use of. It is a journalist who can encourage the masses to come forward and voice their opinion on something. It is a journalist who can bring social change, who can point out the faults in the governance and raise a campaign to correct these faults.

I remember last year some channels decided to be squeamish about a few sensitive issues. Why should it be like that? Why shouldn’t we be allowed to voice our opinions fearlessly.

Wasn’t it Nehru who called journalists the watchdog of Democracy? I for one don’t think he was talking about the “narrations-of-facts” kind of journalism.

The camera is not a tool for the ministers to propagate their views, the camera is the eye of the public keeping a watch on those who are accountable to them.

I said earlier that a change is coming and indeed it is. The public no longer accepts facts only. We read the newspaper for that. I feel honoured to be a student of this noble profession, practiced by so many fearless, indomitable voices of change.

This is an era of disruption and dissent which create the very substance of democracy. The wheels of change have started to roll and now there’s no stopping it, for this continuous challenging of the status quo will create a better and a more accepting India.

Waiting For Patience

Patience. Sometimes this can be the most annoying thing to hear. Especially if you are as hyper an individual or as driven by adrenaline as I am. One of the biggest problems of being impatient is getting irritated by the constant lack of urgency in others. Sometimes I feel like fast forwarding these actions. Well obviously to others, I come across as a hyper and restless individual and I apologize for coming across as an irritable person, but no, I am not sorry.

The one thought that scares me to no end is how do I keep going if I have nothing to look forward to? How do I get up in the morning if I don’t have something to achieve, something to work hard for.

I wonder, is everyone feeling the same way? But then I see people living their lives peacefully. Content with where they are. Enjoying life as it is. Is it only me then?

I am driven by the constant need to move. Staying in the exact place where I was yesterday is what accounts for a complete waste to me.

No. I cannot be patient. If I am to do something, I’d rather do it now. If I want something I want it now. Some people might supplement this logic with the YOLO (You Only Live Once) attitude. But I’m not afraid of  a forgotten to do list after I die. What bothers me is a day wasted i.e. a day where I didn’t do anything that takes me forward, that makes me better than I was yesterday.  I hear spiritual leaders talking about enjoying peace. I hear people saying good things come to those who are patient.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. I did and I still do. But then again I think, instead of waiting patiently for something great to happen, won’t my time be better spent working to achieve something great.

Maybe patience is the virtue of a few rare superhuman who are above ambition, above the constant need to move forward. Maybe patience is for people who are content with their lives, who have learned to see the beauty of life the way it is.

If that be true, I am glad I’m no superhuman. I need ambition, I need to move forward. If I am content with the way life is, how would I make it better? For me, the beauty of life lies in the exciting journey of moving forward, of meeting new people, having new experiences and to some extent beauty of life is also in being afraid, beauty is in anything that makes me feel alive.

We all are living but only some of us are truly alive!

Somewhere In The Middle

It was a time of great excitement as I stepped out of school, once and for all. The weight of my school bag didn’t matter anymore, in fact it felt like the only thing I was taking back home that day, apart from all the memories I’d made of course. Everyone at school said this was going to be my first step into the world outside, that I would feel unsure and confused without them to protect me. And I didn’t really believe that. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my teachers, but I wasn’t afraid of the world outside, I welcomed it. I loved that I would make my own decisions. I couldn’t wait to go to college and more than anything… I was eager to finally study ONLY the subjects that interested me. Two months into my college life and I still had no idea what all my school teachers were talking about. I figured I might be doing something wrong. I was having the time of my life. No, I wasn’t partying with my friends. Being the self-centered narcissist that I am, I always kept to myself and my laptop, to such an extent that a friend suggested that I get married to the purple machine I spent most of my time with. For the first few months of my college I was still suffering from the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), the board exams had caused. And now all of a sudden I had all this free time and I didn’t know what to do with it. For the first few months I studied just about half of what I would for a school exam and to my greatest surprise I ended up getting the highest in the department. To be honest, college life is a time to introspect, to gain knowledge and not about studying. My advice to any college student would be, use this time to figure out the kind of person you want to be for the rest of your life because after these three years your life will truly begin. You will take your first step towards your future. For me, college life is almost over and I’m once again leaving a known environment and stepping into an unknown world. I don’t know if I will make it, I don’t know if I will succeed, all I know, is that I can handle whatever life throws at me and I won’t give up, this is what travelling alone has taught me, this is what preparing for exams without my parents’ constant nagging has taught me.

Sometimes it hurts my ego to think I’m still a student, sometimes I feel afraid to officially be an adult. That’s why I say, this time is to figure out who you really are. I got into arguments with my parents about issues I  would usually avoid and this was confusing for them too because maybe they felt I wasn’t  experienced enough to voice my opinions with such conviction. But thankfully, they have now gladly embraced and welcomed this side of me, so much so that these days I am encouraged to give my opinion and most of the time they like it and accept my ideas.

And finally, an honest revelation to all my friends in school or college; it doesn’t matter if you get 80% instead of 85%, what matters is that you learn something from that 80% and you learn to accept that 80% without blaming it on a teacher or your friend. The first step towards success is progress.