Indian dancer set for ‘confrontation’ with French jazz (With Image)

June 11th, 2011 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) When veena exponent and Bharatanatyam dancer Raghunath Manet performs with French jazz maestro Didier Lockwood for 70 days in a staggered concert in Paris this fall, he wants East to meet West - as a “confrontation” not as “fusion”.

The musical act “Omkara”, a medley of Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and contemporary jazz, will be the autumn showpiece of Theatre de la Gaite Montparnasse from mid-October to December in Paris.

But Manet, who draws his dancing soul from the erstwhile temple dancers of southern India, doesn’t call the concert a fusion.
“I do not believe in fusion music. I would rather describe the concert as a confrontation. I want to find out how I can speak their language of music with my own music and identify the similarities between their body language and ours…I want the East and the West to meet without fusion,” Manet told IANS.

Manet and Lockwood have composed a few choreographies and the rest will be improvisations on stage.

“I like to be creative in the spirit of the second century Tamil epic ‘Silappathikaram’ from the Sangam literature which teaches a performer to be creative each moment. I do not like to interpret traditions but improvise,” Manet said.

Last year, the Puducherry-based artist had collaborated with veteran American jazz musician Archie Shepp.

Manet, who works out of Paris and India, recently performed at the Alliance Francaise in Delhi with percussionist Sivamani at the launch of his book, “The Seven Dances of Shiva” or “Shiva et ses 7 danses” in French. It is his fourth book.

The book, published by Tala Shruti, his dance academy in Puducherry, is an introduction to Shiva — the god who inspired the French sculptor Rodin. He depicts the relationship between Shiva and dance, describing the five basic functions of Shiva’s seven dances.

“Dance is central to Shaivism. I wanted to understand why Shiva is the king of music and rhythm,” he says of his book.

Manet says Puducherry with its French culture and ancient Tamil historical legacy is at the root of his dance and music.

“The French contributed significantly to preserving the traditional Indian arts in Puducherry. They spent a lot of money,” said Manet, who has studied Tamil and French.

Manet learnt Bharatanatyam from the devdasi dancers of the Villianur temple, an abode of Shiva, in Puducherry.

“My master was M.S. Nathan, who was attached to the temple and the Devadasi tradition.”

At 17, I went to the Kalakshetra for eight years and later matured under the guidance of legendary Indian dancer Ram Gopal for five years. I danced for Ram Gopal till his last days in the hospital in London and I hold the rights to most of his archives and documents,” Manet said.

The performer would like to use the material from Ram Gopal’s archives in a documentary movie on the legacy of Indian dance and music.

Manet has danced for south Indian dancer Chandralekha’s production for three years.

Balancing the veena, known as the world’s oldest instrument, and Bharatanatyam is not difficult for Manet. “I can do it because our traditions are so strong. I began as a dancer in childhood, but my parents sent me to learn music,” he said.

According to Manet, the tradition of temple dancing was abolished in the 1950s but continued in southern India as late as 1984-1985.

Manet is busy. His forthcoming venture is a bilingual Tamil-French movie, “Devadasi”, which is expected to be released in August. He is directing as well as acting in the film.

“It is the story of a 100-year-old Devadasi from Tamil Nadu who died in 1997. Filmed in three episodes, the movie recounts the story of her life as a seven-year-old. It covers the years of her life as a dancer,” said Manet’s producer Jayaprakash.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at


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