Blog Hiatus, a Rare Simkie Photo, and Distinguishing Kuchipudi

Friday, February 8, 2019
Hello dear readers and friends!  Well...it has been some time since I have posted or updated this blog.  My how time flies!  Long overdue is a post letting folks know that this blog is on an indefinite hiatus.

My posts on this blog have always been fueled and energized by elation, joy, and excitement in the subject matter--purely felt and honestly channeled into writings in a medium that allowed me to share whatever bliss I was experiencing with likeminded people around the globe.   And I have never posted unless I felt that enthusiasm. For various reasons, some known and others unknown to me, my engagement and enthusiasm have waned, and in that mindset I simply can't post in the same way as I have in the past, at least in good conscience.

The blog is on an indefinite hiatus, and who knows what the future will bring.  I don't want to make any promises that I can't keep, a defect of which I have been guilty of in the past, though I've always had the best, though misguided, intentions!  Should the passion of my past return, I will certainly resume the little mini-research projects I call posts. :D

This blog really blossomed in late 2010, continued the exuberance through 2016, and had a last hurrah in 2017.  I am extremely proud of the work that I did, archived here, hopefully forever, for anyone to see, cherish, and enjoy.  I have had the great fortune of having certain posts graced with comments by famous dancers, academics, and family members of post subjects.  I have met, virtually and in real life, amazing people who have enriched my knowledge, shared my passions, and became my friends. I have disappointed a few, and perhaps treaded not very lightly into contentious and problematic topics and subjects in the history of dance, class, and politics in India. But, I hope that my genuine interest and sympathy for the "underdog" and marginalized has come through.

I realize that as time passes that more broken links, outdated videos, and web maintenance tasks left undone will cause the blog to become harder to use, and as I'm able I will try to keep things up to date.  The fonts aren't always easy to read, and the formatting is goofed up in places. But, please have patience in the meantime. And feel free to drop me a line with any requests to fix things!

So in the low pressure environment of this hiatus post, where I don't have to spend weeks gathering information, making connections, and extensively citing my sources, I thought it would be fun to browse through my draft posts that have never been published and pull out a couple bits of material to finally give it the light of day.


A Rare Photo of Simkie

Simkie, that elusive and mysterious French dance partner of Uday Shanker, most prolifically in the late 1920s and 1930s. I tried for some time to try to figure out a timeline of her later years and what happened to her.

Recent Film Classical Dance Finds

Sunday, November 5, 2017

And...I'm back! :) Some personal matters have kept me away for a long time, but a moment of inspiration and deciding that my posts don't all have to be lengthy mini-dissertations led to a new post finally, yay! I've gathered a collection of some new classical dance finds in Indian films from the past few years as well as the exciting posting of some songs from Sringaram! Enjoy...

Sringaram (2007, Tamil) - It's been ten years since the devadasi period film Sringaram released, and while there is still no DVD or online release of all the songs or the whole film, director Sharada Ramanathan gave us a yet another glimmer of hope on her Facebook page this past March and June when she said that due to continued interest in the film it would be "out in the public domain soon" and "soon be with a main global network for all to see" with directions to "watch this space" to be informed when. Back in 2015 she had announced a summer DVD release after a Doordarshan telecast brought great interest in the film, but nothing materialized. But this time around, I'm apt to believe something will happen given the appearance online in the last few months of songs and dances from the film. For a throwback to my past posts about Sringaram, I reviewed the film back in 2010 (note that I need to replace all my photobucket-hosted photos on my blog, ugh!) and also wrote about its dance sequences.

"Three Seasons" - Posted to Sharada's YouTube account in April, "Three Seasons" features Saroj Khan's unusually on-beat choreography that is characteristic throughout the film, and trained Bharatanatyam dancers Aditi Rao Hydari and Hamsa Moily perform the Bharatanatyam and Odissi sourced and inspired movements beautifully in elegantly simple practice saris. I find it mesmerizing...


The lovely group procession dance sequence made an appearance last fall on Facebook as well here:
https://www.facebook.com/padminiravidance/videos/439542313099885/

New 1950s Footage at Net-Film: Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai, E.V. Saroja, Chitrasena, Vajira, and Padma Subrahmanyam!

Sunday, July 17, 2016
Today I thought, "I wonder if Net-Film has digitized any new videos featuring South Asian dance since I last visited," and they most certainly HAVE—including nattuvangam/training footage of Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai, Bharatanatyam by E.V. Saroja, and Kandyan creative dance by Chitrasena and Vajira!

I had discovered the online Russian digital film/newsreel archive Net-Film back in 2013 when I posted about discovering rare video of the dancers Tara Chaudhri, Guru Gopinath, and Indrani Rahman at the site. Net-Film seems to have since expanded its collection beyond just Russia's Central Studio of Documentary Films, the "oldest and largest film studio in the former Soviet Union," to also include many other studios equaling storage of "about 50,000 films" that are being regularly digitized. Since Net-Film is aimed at providing paid licensing for its content, all the video clips are small, full-length "previews" which have the running timestamp prominently and annoyingly displayed at the bottom to aid requests for exact footage segments. Net-Film also seems to have updated the backend technology and usability of the site and it is no longer glitchy.

The Morning in India (1956, Russian)

This documentary film "about the history of India, struggle for independence, and present of the country" has the rare finds in reels 6 and 7 which focus on Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Swapna Sundari Dancing in Kissaa Kursee Kaa (Hindi, 1977)

Sunday, June 19, 2016
Today I was alerted to Anuj Kumar's days-old The Hindu article about the 1977 Hindi film Kissaa Kursee Kaa which reveals that the director used classical dance forms "performed by Swapna Sundari to anchor the narrative." Swapna Sundari! I always enjoy finding examples of famous dancers performing in cinema, and learning that the well known Kuchipudi and Vilasini Natyam dancer Swapna Sundari danced in a film was certainly surprising!

It's a controversial film for Swapna to have involved herself in. A scathing satirical and symbolic work spoofing the Indira Gandhi government, Kissaa Kursee Kaa (Tale of a Throne, aka Kissa Kursi Ka) was made during the turbulent period known as “the Emergency” when India's government declared a state of emergency ushering in a dark period in India’s modern history which saw basic freedoms and rights suspended. The print we see on YouTube is actually a remake of the original that was banned and never released and had all its prints destroyed by the government. After the Emergency was lifted, director Amrit Nahata reshot and released the film in 1977 (while The Hindu article and YouTube video list 1978, I've listed 1977 which is the date the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema and many other articles list). The film has been in the news recently again after Nahata's son has demanded the original prints be returned or compensation be made. I would love to hear what Swapna's experience was in taking part in this film, but I've not been able to find any other mentions of it.

Raghavan?
While the dances are disappointingly underwhelming and brief (what a let down!), they are notable not only for being an uncommon example of South Indian dance being performed by trained dancers in a Hindi film but also featuring what looks like Kuchipudi dance movements. The male dancer is another rare sight whose identity I'm not sure of—according to a friend's translation, the film credits list Sudharshan Dheer and Raghavan as possibilities, and since the male dancer looks nothing like the late famous Kathak dancer Sudharshan Dheer, my guess is he must be Raghavan. I bet Sudharshan Dheer assisted with choreography especially the Kathak parts.

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