A Mukherjee dances, others stretch too much

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By G.C. SHEKHAR ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BARUN GHOSH
  • Published 25.01.12
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Chennai, Jan. 24: Tamil Nadu has been treated to a Pranab Mukherjee week, without the finance minister himself stepping into the state.

On Monday, his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee was the cultural toast of Chennai when she staged a Kathak performance before some of the city’s big names, including governor K. Rosaiah, actor Kamal Haasan and danseuse Padma Subramanyam.

The 90-minute “Kathak Nrutya” showcased Sharmistha’s talent. It was also the perfect setting for Congress MP J.M. Haaroon to underscore his importance — reflected in the presence of top officials from the income tax, customs and excise departments.

“There is nothing political about this show. I had watched Sharmistha’s performance in Delhi and was really impressed. When I learnt that she has not performed at Chennai, the country’s cultural capital, I organised this event,” Haaroon said.

But trust Congress politicians to hear political footfall behind every ring of the anklet. Some state Congress leaders could not help point out that home minister P. Chidambaram’s daughter-in-law Srinidhi Karti Chidambaram is one of the top Bharatanatyam performers in the city.

“It is a bit premature but the political rivalry between Chidambaram and Pranab could also evolve into a cultural rivalry between the two families,” a former Congress MP deadpanned, giving no clue if he was joking or showing off incisive analytical skills.

Haaroon had provided all the political trappings to Sharmistha’s debut in Chennai, lining up the route of the auditorium with giant banners and planting a huge one as the backdrop to the stage. These announced Rosaiah’s name and the MP’s own in bolder letters than Sharmistha’s. Haaroon also put out advertisements in two local dailies to make sure his role did not go unnoticed.

“I had heard so much about your December music and dance festival so when I got an invitation to perform here I grabbed it,” Sharmistha told The Telegraph.

The annual festival concluded on January 15, just over a week before Sharmistha performed at the Narada Gana Sabha, one of the bigger auditoriums that hosts festival events.

The grace, speed and footwork of Sharmistha and her co-dancers were repeatedly applauded. “She is a very graceful dancer and her performance proved that Chennai should have more Kathak performances,” said Padma Subramanyam, a doyen of Bharatanatyam.

Asked if her father’s political prominence had not overshadowed her own reputation as a talented Kathak dancer, Sharmishta said she and her father were in different professions whose paths did not cross. “We both respect each other’s hard work in doing our jobs to the best of our ability,” she replied.

Less than a week ago, on January 17, another relative of Pranab had attended an event in Tamil Nadu. M. Natarajan, the husband of Jayalalithaa’s estranged friend Sasikala, had organised an event at Thanjavur in southern Tamil Nadu, where Kriishna Mohan was introduced as the brother-in-law of the Union finance minister.

Kriishna Mohan is Subrata Ghosh, the younger brother of Pranab’s wife Suvra. “I am a music composer and known as Kriishna Mohan to my fans,” Ghosh told The Telegraph over the phone earlier this week. Ghosh said the programme he had attended in Thanjavur was a cultural programme.

“I participated in the January 17 cultural event in Thanjavur, hosted by Natarajan whom I know for several years. I was also awarded a gold medal and a citation by Natarajan for my contribution to the field of music,” he said.