BENGALURU: Bengaluru-based Kathak dancers Hari and Chethana, well known in the country for their passion for dance, are headed towards Colombo to receive the island country’s prestigious award given to those who render service to people through cultural, literary work, or performing arts.
This award is being given by The National Peace Association, headed by Sri Lankan Prime Minister, who has sent a personal letter to the couple.
“The award will be given to us on July 28 at Bandaranayaka International Hall. It is being given in recognition of our contribution in the field of arts,” says Hari, who, along with Chethana, founded Noopur Performing Art Centre in Bengaluru in 1996.
It also has branches in The Netherlands and the United States, which are run by their senior disciples.
With the legend Birju Maharaj showing the way, the duo is constantly evolving and is always on the lookout for new themes to explore, be it Bhavna, based on traditional Kathak repertoire showcasing the intricate techniques and deep moods of emotions woven together, or their latest work, Full Moon.
Their connection with Sri Lanka goes back 18 years.
“In 2002, when Sri Lanka was in turmoil as a result of ethnic war, we volunteered to visit the country on our own and helped to collect Rs 2 million through our performances. With the support of Colombo Young Women’s Association, we helped in the building of a home for the elderly in Jaffna,” he recalls.
They also helped in fund-raising for a Bharatanatyam Dance institution called Kalalaya in Colombo, founded by the legendary Rukmini Arundale.
“We specially choreographed a sequence called Rhythms of Kathak, which was presented to audiences in various cities,” Hari adds.
At a time when many Indian performing artistes were reluctant to go to the troubled neighbouring country, Hari and Chethana were part of a peace summit organised by the Indian High Commission in 2003, where they presented three productions focusing on the need to maintain peace and depicting the principles of Buddhism.
“In 2008, we were invited by the Indian High Commission in Kandy to present the literary works of famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, called Hazaroon Khwaishen, which was presented in Colombo university,” says Chethana.
Hari and Chethana are also resident artists at Korzo Theatre in Amsterdam, where they go every October for performances and workshops.
They were recently given the Kempegowda Award by the Karnataka government and have acted in dance-based films like Parva Randava in Kannada, Makara Manya in Malayalam and the Tamil movie, School Campus.
In a unique honour, they were the first Kathak dancer couple to perform in Saudi Arabia. The writer is a city-based dance critic.