Cap­tur­ing the mo­ment

Su­tra Gallery presents an odissi- in­spired pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tion.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ARTS - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@ thes­tar.com.my

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY ex­hi­bi­tion Gan­jam cap­tures the story be­hind the dance lin­eage of odissi from the cul­tur­ally rich district of Gan­jam, South Odisha in In­dia.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is on now at Su­tra Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

Odissi is one of eight clas­si­cal dance forms of In­dia and orig­i­nates from the state of Odisha, in east­ern In­dia. It is be­lieved to be the old­est sur­viv­ing In­dian dance form.

Based on Su­tra Foun­da­tion’s odissi pro­duc­tion of the same name, the Gan­jam photo ex­hi­bi­tion im­mor­talises some great mo­ments of Su­tra’s ac­claimed pro­duc­tion held at Is­tana Bu­daya in Kuala Lumpur last Septem­ber.

Two pho­tog­ra­phers – A. Prathap, 33, from In­dia and S. Ma­gen­dran, 28, from Malaysia – are ex­hibit­ing 25 pho­to­graphs in their se­cond joint- ex­hi­bi­tion. In Gan­jam, Ma­gen­dran has 14 pho­tos while Prathap con­trib­utes 11.

If you’re fa­mil­iar with Su­tra’s per­for­mances, you’ll also re­call that Ma­gen­dran and Prathap shot pho­tos at the Su­tra’s fes­ti­val Joined In Dance in 2012.

Their first joint- show Joined In Dance was held in Su­tra Gallery in 2013.

For this cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion, Prathap feels that the stag­ing ( of Gan­jam) was more com­plex as the chore­og­ra­phy and stage de­sign made full use of the multi- level stages at Is­tana Bu­daya.

“The per­for­mance was de­signed with a back­drop of pro­jec­tions, which added to the com­plex and multi- lay­ered pre­sen­ta­tion. I had to de­cide on what to fo­cus,” he says of the chal­lenges in pho­tograph­ing dancers whose move­ments are deft and quick dur­ing stage per­for­mances.

Prathap has been pho­tograph­ing dancers and var­i­ous dance or art forms in In­dia since 2004. At the mo­ment, he is a prin­ci­pal pho­tog­ra­pher with The Times Of In­dia, Chen­nai, and has more than 10 years ex­pe­ri­ence in pho­tog­ra­phy.

Prathap likes to cap­ture the raw emo­tions of dancers dur­ing per­for­mance and the form of the body – be it sharp or sin­u­ous.

“Bharatanatyam is sharper and odissi is more sin­u­ous. How­ever, there is al­ways the ‘ hu­man’ el­e­ment which gives it that emo­tional in­ten­sity.

“There is some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing about the in­ter­sec­tion of aes­thet­ics – of form and emo­tion, phys­i­cal­ity and spirituality, which trans­late into vis­ual po­etry,” he ex­plains.

As part of his work process, Prathap at­tended most of the re­hearsals to un­der­stand the stages of chore­og­ra­phy.

“I also love the hus­sle and bus­tle of back­stage prepa­ra­tion, such as the dancers dress­ing up, putting their make- up and warm­ing up. Such fa­mil­iar­ity will help you to an­tic­i­pate the dancer’s moves and po­si­tion your­self to take the ap­pro­pri­ate shots,” he says.

He also prefers to shoot in black and white and sepia tone.

“It is to bring a cer­tain mon­u­men­tal­ity and aus­tere qual­ity to the im­age,” he ex­plains. This gives it a stronger fo­cus on de­sign and con­tent and leaves an im­pres­sion of a ‘ clas­sic’ en­counter.”

Else­where, Ma­gen­dran thinks that in dance pho­tog­ra­phy, the pho­tog­ra­pher needs to un­der­stand the var­i­ous art forms.

“In odissi, the mood is con­veyed through ab­hi­naya ( mood) which is ex­pressed through the face and ges­tures of the dancers. A pho­tog­ra­pher has to be fa­mil­iar with this through ex­po­sure at both re­hearsals and the ac­tual per­for­mance. We need to be able to an­tic­i­pate the high point of this mood in or­der to cap­ture the most in­tense mo­ment. For a more so­phis­ti­cated pro­duc­tion, light­ing is also im­por­tant,” says Ma­hen­dran.

Ma­gen­dran also loves to shoot in black and white.

“I find that th­ese im­ages are more ex­pres­sive. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, with the pres­ence of shad­ows, the black and white im­ages bring out the depth of the sub­ject, mak­ing it look more like a 3D im­age,” he says.

Ma­gen­dran also cap­tured im­ages of Su­tra dancers dur­ing its per­for­mance at the Bayon Tem­ple ( Angkor, Cam­bo­dia) and ex­hib­ited them at the Sub­lime Angkor ex­hi­bi­tion at Su­tra Gallery in 2013.

the Gan­jam ex­hi­bi­tion is on at Su­tra Gallery at No. 12, Per­siaran ti­ti­wangsa 3, Kuala Lumpur till March 31. Mon­day to Fri­day, 10am to 5pm. Satur­day, 10am to 12.30pm. It will later move to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, where the se­cond sea­son of Gan­jam - An En­core, the dance pro­duc­tion, will be held at City Hall Au­di­to­rium from March 23– 27. More info: www.su­trafoun­da­tion.org.my.

1 Prathap’s Rama

Bha­jana which shows the im­por­tance of an­tic­i­pat­ing the right mo­ment in a dance move­ment.

2 Ma­gen­dran’s

Flower Of­fer­ings

with Su­tra founder datuk ramli Ibrahim tak­ing charge of the stage.

3 Prathap’s

Spring­time Play is all about the hu­man el­e­ment.

— Pho­tos: Su­tra Gallery

4 Ma­gen­dran makes the epic mo­ment count in his work

Tri­umphant Yogini.

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