Shri. Satyajit Ray in 1976, made a documentary on Smt. T. Balasaraswati titled “Bala”, when she was 58 years old! For the current generation of dancers who have only heard or read about her (link1) (link2). Some video snippets are available in Youtube as well. The one I found very interesting is where one can find her soulful singing to her daughter, Lakshmi Knight’s performance. However, today a blogger Minai has posted the entire documentary in Youtube for all of us to see, enjoy and cherish. Minai says
I rarely post entire films, but I’m presenting this one for not only the educational value of discussing it here but also because it is an important archival recording of a critical figure in the history of India’s classical dance traditions.
which I completely agree with. Since it is these rare archives that I personally think not only enhances a Bharatanatyam dancer’s view point but also allows the current and future generations to get a glimpse and understand the turbulent (if I can say so) history of this dance form.
Some interesting details from the blog are being quoted below.
2:07 – Bala demonstrating hand gestures 3:57 – Bala singing and performing abhinaya 7:00 – Bala speaking in English 8:29 – An elderly Uday Shankar speaking about Bala 9:58 – Bala’s Krishna Ne Begane Baro dance by the ocean 18:58 – Bala’s varnam dance with her musical ensemble
At 7:46 – Shri V. Raghavan speaking about Bala as well. The varnam is Bhairavi Varnam “Mohamaana” on Tyagaraja swami of Tiruvarur. Here is the Youtube link: Bala (1976) Satyajit Ray Documentary and the blog post that has more details.
If you scroll down the post you see some interesting feedback by Avanthi Meduri on the documentary
In the excellent article “Multiple Pleasures: Improvisation in Bharatanatyam,” Avanthi Meduri notes that “Balasaraswati was particularly celebrated for her rendition of the padam known as Krishna Ne Begane Baro” which means “Krishna, hurry into my embrace” and is improvised with a fresh interpretation each time the phrase is repeated. Meduri then discusses the padam’s film version in Ray’s documentary and takes issue with Ray’s placement of the dance performance with a live ocean backdrop. She asks, “Did the director situate Bala against this backdrop as a way to naturalize and essentialize the dance, to evoke notions of cosmic plenitude, timelessness, and infinitude? Or did he desire merely to spiritualize and idealize both the dancer and the dance?” She feels that, regardless of Ray’s good intentions, the performance falls flat because Bala is “separated from immediate engagement with her musical ensemble, which had always supported and accompanied her live performances.
And two recent documentaries available in Youtube. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this documentary. I hope you enjoy it too!!! If you did, do post your comments.
My two cents:
When did Hamsasya hasta become Mayura hasta? or did I miss something here? (See second comment below!!!) Although, I am grateful to Shri. Satyajit Ray for the awesome documentary, my final thoughts are in line with questions raised by Dr. Avanthi Meduri!!! In any case, I am thankful for the documentary.