Kathak in America – The Story of Kalamandir

Kathak by Kalamandir StudentsThe classical Indian dance form Kathak is now quite well known amongst the dance connoisseurs of America.  Americans who have some familiarity with classical music and dance of India, know about Kathak – a dance form that truly blends together the various components of Indian music – melody, rhythm and the beauty of the physical form.  It is true that many stalwarts of the Kathak dance form like Pandit Birju Maharaj and others have graced the American stage with their amazing performances, but the primary reason for its popularity and sustenance in this country is due to the tremendous efforts put in by several Kathak dance schools and academies run by the immigrant dancers from India who wanted to spread their passion for this art form amongst the next generation. Once such school is Kalamandir of New Jersey led by its director, Malabika Guha.

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Aila Causes Devastation in West Bengal

I am watching the devastation caused by hurricane Aila on ETV Bangla news. It looks really bad. Although the local adminstration has ramped up the rescue operation quite efficiently, the wide spread destruction is very difficult to handle. The recent election seems to have been responsible for this quick response from the Left Front State Govt who wants to prove that they have not lost contact with the people. The Trinamool leaders on the other hand is using this disaster to prove themselves as the viable alternative in the state.  The White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had once said, “… a crisis like this cannot go to waste.”  The West Bengal politicians do not want this opportunity thrown to them by Aila to be wasted either. This is an excellent opportunity to prove themselves.
Whatever may be the reason, if  the state politicians for a change work in favor of the people, it would serve them as well as the people.

RAAG-RANG PRESENTS : MUSIC OF INDIA

RAAG-RANG PRESENTS : MUSIC OF INDIA

Cine-music, Ghazals, Bhajans, Taranas, Tillanas, Folk,

Thumris, Dhrupad, Khayal, Kirtans, and more.

Our journey will take us across India‘s landscape, stopping at points of interest from the Himalayan Highlands to the backwaters of Kerala, from the havelis of Rajasthan to the flowing waters of Bengal, as distinguished artists perform

the music of their heritage.

Mohan Deshpande, Mitali Banerjee-Bhawmik, Astha Shukla,

Kamala Ramamurthy, Arun Ramamurthy, Trupti Parikh, Bhupendra Gadhavi

Kedar Naphade, Pratik Devasthale, Amod Dandawate

Introducing young artiste Rahul Palnitkar

Arsha Bodha Center, 84 Cortelyous Lane, Somerset, NJ 08873

(287, Exit 10, Rt. On Cedar Grove, Lt. on Amwell, Rt. On

South Middlebush, 2.5 mi Lt. on Cortelyous, 1mi on left)

Tel: (908) 429-1120, (609) 890-4890, (201) 447-6936, (973) 539-5534

bhawmikm@gmail.com, mayuresh.khare@gmail.com

Donations : Adult: $15 (non-members) / $10 (members)

Under 12 : $7 (non-members)/$5 (members)

Limited seating, RSVP. Convenient parking at the Venue.

Community News Bites: Banaprastha and Urhalpool

ECTA’s latest production “Banaprastha” premiered at the Edison Valley Playhouse on May 16th in front of a full house. The play was very well received by the audience as you can see in the accompanying video.  The second show was held on May 17th. Besides the video comments, here are some of the comments sent over the email.

We thoroughly enjoyed Banaprasta. This is a very timely production. I wish this drama can be viewed by millions Indians in India in view of the fact that India is crazy about Bollywood. Once again congratulations for presenting a great drama.” – Aurobindo Mukherjee

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Search for Idols

Indian Idol Anu Malik The reality TV show “American Idol” has triggered a new trend – Idol search! TV channels all over the world are searching for idols – or talents. This search is not only limited to the television screen, but it has also proliferated onto the stage in various forms. Although the primary objective of this kind of shows is to screen for talent,  in reality (excuse the pun) it is nothing but an entertainment show. The excitement, the drama, and the occasional emotional outbursts, are all part of the show. Undoubtedly, such shows do bring many talented men, women and children to the limelight, but is this the right way to do explore talent?  In many cases, the exploration turns to exploitation – especially for the young participants. They have to go through a grueling screening process, sustain a tremendous pressure to perform, and then handle a barrage of criticism from the celebrity judges.  I know in one dance show, a young girl couldn’t take the judges criticism anymore and had a nervous breakdown resulting in a paralytic fit. In several instances the young competitors sacrifice their education to continue the show. But the tragedy is, in most cases the winner is not judged by the celebrity panel whose criticism these young participants have to encounter, but rather by the audience through cell/mobile phone text messages (SMS). And in this process, the wireless carrier mints money. I am sure the show also gets their share of this income too.

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Quillpad.in: A New Tool to Write in Bengali

Quillpad.in Bengali Web interfaceDo you write in Bengali or any other Indian languages? Try quillpad! Its a great new online wordprocessor for Indian languages. The cool thing about this tool is its flexibility in transliteration. One does not need to follow any specific set of rules. The tool automatically tries to guess the word that you want to type in, and also offers multiple alternatives.  This is an excellent feature because it can take care of  several Bangla spelling issues.  The documentation says that it works better on Internet Explorer, however I tried it on Firefox and Chrome and it works fine.  One issue I encountered was the limitation of Bangla font availablility. Currently the font used is “Vrinda” and it’s not the best Bangla font available. The other issue is that this tool seems to have limited formatting capability.  I am concerned about how effectively can this tool be used to write Bengali documents besides emails and small messages.

I plan to check this tool out in more details and write a regular article some time later.

The Elusive Alexa Rank and How to Improve It

Alexa ranking is now the defacto standard for determining web popularity – the less the rank number the higher is your popularity. For example Google has the highest rank – 1. Most online advertisers use Alexa rank as the key metric to decide whether to spend their precious advertising dollars on a site.

However, the way Alexa computes a sites rank is  by measring how many visitors are viewing your site using a browser that has an Alexa tool bar installed. In other words, if a visitor do not have the Alexa tool bar installed, that visit does not count at all. Well, apparently there are are other variables used in computing the rank, but most webmasters and SEO pundits agree that the Alexa tool bar is the key instrumentation used in computing this elusive number.

One of the best ways of improving a web sites Alexa rank is to convince your visitors to download and install the Alexa tool bar (quite an unobtrusive element though) on their browser.  So if you are reading this now, download and install the toolbar and help improve my rank. However, if you are using one of the less popular web browsers like Google Chrome, then you (and me) are out of luck.

The other less effective ways are things like, installing Alexa widgets on your site, increasing the number of incoming links, use techniques like posting on Asian forums (apparently Alexa is more popular in Asia) etc. Google the term “how to improve Alexa rank” and you’ll find tons of advice.

But I think the only way to make it work for you is to get tons of traffic to your site.

Banaprastha Rehearsals in Final Phase

Parijat (Subhodev) and Pallab (Shamyo) in BanaprasthaAfter a long preparation phase, the end is now in sight. In two weeks time, ECTA will be launching their latest production, “Banaprastha” or “The Retirement”. ECTA’s play have always generated interest amongst the theater lover audience of this area and “Banaprastha” is no exception. People are eagerly waiting for the new play with lot of expectation. We hope this play will live up to that.

“Banaprastha” will feature some of the regular performers of ECTA along with few new faces. Shamyo Goswami, a newcomer to New Jersey will be appearing for the first time on NJ stage. Although Shamyo’s primary interest is in film direction (he has directed and produced a Banga Tele-serial featuring some of the top actors of Bengali screen), he is also an excellent actor. Subhodev Das, after a long hiatus, will be performing the role of the protagonist character – Dr. Parijat Sen.  Another newcomer is Pradeep Ramdas. Although not a native Bengali speaker, his love for Bengali theater is no less than any Bengali. In India, Pradeep was involved with the street theater movement. Pradeep plays the role of Ashok Diwan, a young business man of Kolkata.  Kaninika Dutta’s debut in New Jersey theater was with Pratham Alo, where she acted in the key role of Bhumisuta. Kaninika, after a long break, returns to the stage as Sudeshna. Gargi Mukherjee, the well known actress (you cannot miss her in Mira Nair’s film – The Namesake) also returns to an ECTA production after a long time. She performed in ECTA’s first production “Phera” (The Return) in 2004 as a guest artist. In Banaprastha, she performs in the role of Suranjana – a character that will touch the hearts of many. Kaushik Dutta, who won the hearts of many with his role of Nando in “Ron”, will also feature in an important character role.

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Use Google to Search in Bengali

Want to search the web in Bengali for websites in Bengali? Visit google.co.in and select the language (Bengali) from the menu below the search window.  Now type in your search keyword using your keyboard. Google uses a transliteration scheme to form the word in Bangla. It will also offer multiple options as you type in. Select your option, and voila’ – several Bangla websites will splash on your screen.

Give it a shot right away – if you haven’t done so.

ETV Bangla New Schedule for USA

ETV BanglaETV Bangla has changed its broadcast schedule in USA. They claim that the schedule is now follows the current Kolkata broadcast schedule only with the time shifted. In other words a show at 8.00pm in Kolkata will be broadcast at 8.00pm Eastern in USA. Although, now we have the privilge of watching the current shows instead of  a huge lag, the popular serials have now fast forwarded quite a bit with lot of story being lost in the process. The scheduling also doesn’t seem to be stabilzed – we often have to experience erratic programming.

The second issue is that the advertisements seem to have increased quite a bit. A short segment of broadcast is followed by a prolonged advertisement most of which are irrelevant for US market (I don’t think we are interested in Baygon Spray or Glucon-D).

The third issue is that ETV does not bother to update their listings with Direct-TV database and hence it makes DVR (aka Tivo, PVR) recording a major problem. I had once sent an email to ETV, and they did update it once. But that’s it.

Let’s hope ETV gets their act together soon and make our subscription worth it.