Journey from oral to written form and mandap to theatre

Manipur dance scholar Padmashri Darsha Jhaveri in city

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, May 15: For Padmashri Darsha Jhaveri her around 12-minute conversation with The Sentinel at Radha-Madhab Sebhashram at Maligaon, Guwahati today is a real blast from the past – recalling her and her sisters’ over 50-year-long association with Guru Bipin Singha in the Herculean task of bringing the classical Manipuri dance to the theatre from the mandap and to the written form from an oral one. The long guru-shishya association has much to do with what classical Manipuri is on the stage today.

Padmashri Darsha Jhaveri – a classical Manipuri dancer, research scholar, a teacher, the director of Manipuri rtalay in Mumbai, Kolkata and Imphal; all rolled into one – is one of the four Jhaveri sisters of intertiol repute. She is in Guwahati at a Manipuri dance workshop organized by Prera Manipuri Kalakendra, Maligaon. The workshop that began on May 13 will conclude on May 16. According to Prera Manipuri Kalakendra Principal Rekha Talukdar, a gold medalist in M. Muse (Manipuri Dance), this is the fifth such workshop organized by her institute. While three of the five workshops had Padmashri Darsha Jhaveri as the resource person, the other two were attended by Guru Kalavati Devi, Kolkata. The workshop is being attended by 20 students.  The Kalakendra, according to Dutta, has nine students who have been getting CCRT scholarship from the Government of India.

Padmashri Jhaveri said: “Guruji (Guru Bipin Singha) was first directing dance drama (theatre) in Mumbai Manipuri style. We met him first in 1943, and since then our association with him continued for over 50 years. This long period has much to do with what Manipuri dance is today. Through Guruji we could get all forms of Manipuri culture replete with rich classical elements. All those elements were embedded either in the Rasalila, tapala, rasakirtan, basak and the like. Even the talas were in oral forms. With the help of Guruji, now we have as many as 18 publications on Manipuri dance. Guruji choreographed dance items with all those elements for performance on the stage. Our gurujis’s choreographs fit the stage like a glove, and this is a big challenge overcome by him. While the mandali of the Manipuri mandap where the performers sing and dance is circular, the theatrical stage is rectangular. This difference in shape makes a gulf of difference while performing a dance.”

When The Sentinel asked her on the gharas of Manipuri dance, the Sangeet tak Akademi Award-winning dancer said: “The mostly popular gharas in Manipuri dance now are Guru Amubi Singha ghara and Guru Bipin Singha ghara. Guru Bipin Singha had, in fact, developed the Guru Amudhan Sharma’s ghara. There is also another ghara as Guru Atamba Singha ghara. The Guru Bipin Singha Ghara is very popular for tandava (masculine dance). Guruji imported rich classical elements from the forceful pung chalam and modified them through research, introduced forceful steps and acrobatic movement like somersaults into them and made them perfectly fit for the stage. All the four Jhaveri sisters were integral part of the creative works of Guruji since 1958. Guruji could do all such creative works at ease because of his rich knowledge in shastras, besides being a devout vaishv.”

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