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Sangeet Natak Akademi Award: The ultimate Award for an Artist

Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi"
Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi”

India is known for its rich tradition and heritage. We are acknowledged as the carrier of cultural Dharohar (legacy) of art in the world. Therefore to reward artists, there are many awards prevail in India. Dancers, singers, musicians, painters and other artists get recognised for their hard work and talent throughout their life. However, in these old and new awards ceremonies, ‘Sangeet Natak Akademi(SNA) Awards’ has its own ultimate recognition for an artist in India.

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In the first week of October, from the hands of Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Honourable President of India, this prestigious ‘SNA awards for the 2015’ conferred to various artists for their contribution in the field of art at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture & Tourism and many dignitaries were present at the award function. Speaking at the event Shekhar Sen, Chairman, SNA said, “SNA awards were founded with a mission to give recognition and honour the artists of excellence. To promote classical, folk and traditional performing art forms of this great country where music, dance and theatre run through the veins of the Indian society, this occasion is celebrated in the colourful manner.”

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In its joint meeting at the Agartala on 20th and 21st of April, the General Council of the SNA and the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama C V Chandrasekhar as Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (Akademi Ratna) for his contribution to the performing arts. The Akademi also bestowed these awards to preselected forty-three artists in the fields of music, dance, theatre from various categories of traditional, folk, tribal and puppetry.

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Nine eminent artists have been awarded in different form of Dance are Ranganayaki Jayaraman(Bharatanatyam), K Kunhiraman Nair(Kathakali), G Padmaja Reddy(Kuchipudi), Aloka Kanungo(Odissi), Sharodi Saikia(Sattriya Dance), Mandakini Trivedi(Mohiniattam), Sadashiva Pradhan(Chhau Dance), W Lokendrajit Singh(Contemporary) and Rajkumar Bharathi.

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Eleven eminent artists, those were conferred for their contribution in Music are Krishna Bisht and Mashkoor Ali Khan(Hindustani Vocal), Kartik Kumar(Hindustani Instrumental–Sitar), Brij Narayan(Hindustani Instrumental–Sarod, R N Thyagarajan and R N Tharanathan (jointly award)(Carnatic Vocal Music), Suguna Varadhachari(Carnatic Vocal Music), Lalgudi G J R Krishnan(Carnatic Instrumental–Violin), Mambalam M K S Siva(Carnatic Instrumental –Nagaswaram), Bhupinder Singh, Hridyanath Mangeshkar and Prafulla Kar were bestowed with Sugam Sangeet for their major contribution in the field of music.

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For major contribution in Theatre, nine personalities from the field have been selected for the Akademi Awards this year: Nand Kishore Acharya and Shafaat Khan for Playwriting, Parvez Akhtar and Mushtaq Kak for Direction, Manoj N Joshi and Himani Shivpuri for Acting, Pradeep Mulye for Allied Theatre Arts–Scenic Design, Sarojini Nangiar for other major traditions of Theatre–Kutiyattam and Rani Balbir Kaur for overall contribution in Theatre.

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In the field of Traditional/Folk/Tribal Music/Dance/Theatre and Puppetry,  ten artistes have been selected for Akademi Awards 2015, they are Khuman Lal Sao (Folk Music of Chhattisgarh), Ramchandra Singh (Folk Theatre of Bihar), Khem Raj (Folk Music of Jammu and Kashmir), S R D Prasad (Martial Art of Kerala), Chhaya and Maya Khutegaonkar (joint award for Folk Dance of Maharashtra-Lavani), Gangmei Aluna Kabuini (Traditional Dance and Music of Manipur), Paramjit Singh Sidhu (Folk Music of Punjab), Sayeed Sabri Jaipuri (Qawwali, Rajasthan), K K Ramachandra Pulavar and T N Sankaranathan for Puppetry.

Shanta Gokhale and Chaman Ahuja have been selected for the Akademi Award 2015 in the field of Overall Contribution/Scholarship to Performing Arts.

The honour of Akademi Award has been conferred for the first time in 1952 and Akademi Fellow in 1954. These honours not only symbolize the highest standard of excellence and achievements, but also recognize sustained individual work and contribution. The Akademi Fellow carries a purse money of Rs. 3,00,000 and Akademi Award carries Rs. 1,00,000 besides a Tamrapatra and Angavastram.

Mr. Sen told me that, ‘The journey of the SNA award ceremony goes back to 50s when it was introduced to honour the artists of excellence in their field. SNA being the highest apex body initiated SNA Awards, not only to preserve the dying art forms but to propagate an instrument in popularising the different art forms.”

Some of the earlier awardees of this esteemed award were literally worshipped by the newcomers today in their respective fields. They are Bharatnatyam dancer T. Balasaraswati (1955) and Mylapore Devi Arundale (1959) for Kathak the award was given to Shambhu Maharaj (1955) Baijnath Prasad “Lacchu Maharaj”(1957), Sunder Prasad (1959) Birju Maharaj (1964) Sitara Devi (1969). In Kathakali P K Kunju Kurup (1956) Thotton K. Chandu Panikkar (1958), Manipuri Amubi Singh (1956), Haobam Atomba (1958), Kuchipudi Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma Satyam (1961) Chinta Krishnamurthy (1968), for Odissi Kelucharan Mohapatra (1966), Sattrriyawas Manira, Datta Moktar (1963), Mohiniattam was T. Chinnammu Amma (1972) in Chhau Suddhendra Narayan Singh Deo (1963), in Creative & Experimental Dance Uday Shankar (1960) and MrinaliniVikram Sarabhai (1970).

The Sangeet Natak Akademi was established by the Ministry of Education by passing the resolution in 1952 as the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, and was inaugurated by the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad in January, 1953. It was created as the apex body for preservation and promotion of the performing arts in India. One of the important activities of the Akademi has been to give recognition and honours artists.

Now, this ‘Akademi Awards’ is more than six decades old and even celebrated its diamond jubilee. The Academy body consists of practitioners, gurus and scholars in the performing arts honoured by the Akademi.

The Akademi’s charter of functions was expanded along the original lines in 1961, when the SNA was reconstituted by the Government. The Akademi establishes and looks after institutions and projects of national importance in the field of the performing arts. The National School of Drama, set up in 1959, was the first of their two national institutions of dance — Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy in Imphal and Kathak Kendra (National Institute of Kathak Dance) in New Delhi were set up in 1964 respectively. National Projects of Support to Kuttiyattam – the age-old Sanskrit theatre of Kerala – Chhau dances of eastern India and Sattriya traditions of Assam have been launched subsequently. After ten years of intensive work under the Kutiyattam project, the UNESCO declared Kutiyattam as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in May 2001.

While inaugurating the institution Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, then Union Minister for Education said, “India’s precious heritage of music, drama and dance is one which we must cherish and develop. We must do so not only for our own sake but also as our contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind.”

This is one of the awards that all artist dream of and receiving it is the biggest achievement for any artist. Through this article, I would like to congratulate all the awardees whose dreams have come true today. I would also like to extend my best wishes to Mr. Sen giving artists an ultimate platform and recognising the talent.

(Sandip Soparrkar is a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with National Achievement Award and National Excellence Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on [email protected])

Sandip Soparrkar

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