One of the greatest Tandav dance exponents, an epoch-maker and man with a vision, Shri Madan Lal Koser was much more. He had become a legend in his own lifetime, a distinction which is beyond majority of performers and organizers in the field of Indian classical music and dance.
He stood among those distinguished few whose life’s mission was the propagation of Indian classical music and dance.
Known for his untiring pursuit of excellence whatever the field, he belonged to that rare species of artistes who for the cause of promoting of other artists sacrificed his own performing career at a time when it was at the peak. With his lifetime service to the enrichment of classical art and culture, Sh. M.L. Koser had scaled himself to such heights that people hold their heads up to look at him.
Undisputed monarch of cultural activities, Sh. Koser, instead of resting on his laurels, continued to pay homage to Indian art and culture and he single-handedly put the City Beautiful on the art map of the world. His visionary foresight, indefatigable energy and brilliance can be gauged from the fact that at the young of 26, in 1956, he thought of setting up an institution of Pracheen Kala Kendra’s stature which has now climbed to new and dizzy heights and become a beacon light that guides aspiring artistes, helping them realize their true potential.
Born on June 20, 1930 in an illustrious family of Gujranwala, now in Pakistan, to well-to-do parents Lala Mela Ram and Mata Ishar Kaur, it was Koser’s interest in dance that took him to various fountainheads of this art form. Despite tremendous family opposition, this young dancer was absolutely convinced of the need to learn the classical dance forms at the places of their origin. He started learning intricacies of dance under Guru Sudhakar and later spent considerable time under the tutelage of legendary Guru Uday Shankar and Guru Namudri at Almora learning techniques and nuances of dancing. Not contended, he further practiced Bharatnatyam in Thanjavour and Kathak in Lucknow under the able guidance of master exponents. Not only that, he even went to Manipur to master the techniques of Manipuri dance, and received rigorous training from the renowned Guru Amubi Singh, an incomparable master of Manipuri dancing.
Equipped with sound theoretical and practical knowledge, Koser formed his own dancing troupe at the age of 20. Koser’s hard work bore fruit, and at the young age of 21, he was awarded the title of ‘Dwitya Tandu’ (the second Shiva), a rare distinction from Manipur. Panditraj Atambapu Sharma at that time said about Koser that he has the ability to perform the three forms of classical dances – Bharatnatyam, Kathak, and Manipuri – which can be compared with Triveni, the sangam of the three sacred rivers, the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati. Though Guru Koser had expertise in various dance forms, classical and folk, however, he earned name and fame as greatest Tandav dancer in pre and post independence era.
His debut was mind-blowing ballet based on Pandit Nehru’s “Discovery of India” which won him wide acclaim as a dance prodigy. In the form of social crusade, the numerous ballets staged by him spoke about the then burning problems of the country. The spectacular technique and novelty in his presentation brought him wide recognition so much so that the King of Ethiopia, who happened to witness one of his ballets, presented to Madan Lal Koser a Gold Medal and extended an invitation to him to visit his country. The other most memorable ballets staged by Koser were “Indo-Pak Conflict”, “India’s Peace Role in Korea”, “Unification of India”, “Nawakhali Episode”, “Bhakra Nangal”, etc.
ML Koser got the unique opportunity of performing on a number of occasions before Indian and foreign dignitaries. His performances were witnessed amongst others by the Late Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Late Dr. Radha Krishanan, Late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, former President, Vice-President and Prime Minister of India, respectively, and by many Governors and Chief Ministers of the different Indian states. Koser was presented the President’s Award twice for presenting most inspiring programmes draped in refreshing creativity with perfect professional competence revealing novel shades of the art of classical dancing.
Apart from performing in almost all the states of India before various parliamentary delegates, ambassadors and foreign dignitaries, including Marshal Bulganan, Chiei-Yen-Lie, former Chinese Prime Minister, he has toured extensively all over the world exhibiting his versatility to one and all.
ML Koser had made significant contributions in many varied capacities of his professional life spanning over several decades.
As An Artist
Performing arts are ephemeral phenomena. Artists shine with meteoric brilliance on the stage and fade away after some time, leaving faint memories. There are only a few who turn their artistic brilliance to constructive use and serve the cause of art and culture in an enduring manner. Madan Lal Koser was such an artist, who having blazed a shining trail during his young years, has not faded away like a meteor but had become a beacon of light in the world of art and culture who guided the destiny of young dancers, musicians, actors and other professionals from the field of visual arts to a positive, constructive and fruitful life. Koser was indeed a superb artist of tremendous range with exceptional intelligence, musicality and arresting stage-presence. Through his art he always tried to present the most direct, most forceful, and most truthful interpretation of his ever-expanding experience of life’s many-splendoured beauty and bounty.
As An Institution Builder
The artistic journey of Koser took an epoch-making turn with the establishment of “Pracheen Kala Kendra” by him at Chandigarh in 1956. It was a visionary’s tryst with a new realm which had never been visualized by any other professional in the field of art and culture before. The idea behind this venture was to preserve and promote traditional music, dance, and other fine arts in their technical perfection and classical excellence on scientific lines.
Today, the Kendra is one of the premier educational and cultural organisations having three complexes – Chandigarh, Mohali and Kolkata. Since its inception, the Kendra is doing yeoman service in propagating India’s traditional arts in a systematic manner. It is a pioneer, professionally-equipped examining and affiliating institution of national importance. It has a network of more than 3500 training and examination centres functioning as its affiliates all over the country and abroad. There more than two lakh sixty students are receiving professional training in various disciplines of Indian classical music, dance, and other fine arts.
Pracheen Kala Kendra has multiplicity of functions, foremost amongst them are the holding of examinations, imparting of training, conducting of research and organising of high-standard cultural programmes by inviting top notch artists, both established as well as up-coming, from the field of performing arts. The Kendra is the only institution of its kind which has facilities to cover the whole gamut of education and training in music, dance, drama, and other fine arts. It provides adequate facilities for research and training, supported by extensive library of books, audio and video cassettes on these subjects.
The Kendra conducts various grades of examinations in the subjects of classical music, dance and fine arts (painting) and awards certificates and diplomas of Prarambhik, Bhushan, Visharad, Bhaskar and Churamani. It is virtue of the high standard of these examinations that a good number of State Governments, Education Boards and Universities have not only recognized the certificates and diplomas awarded by the Kendra as requisite qualification for appointment as teachers/ lecturers in schools/colleges but so also they have treated the same as equivalent to their degrees for taking admission in higher courses of study under their respective jurisdictions.
As An Art Promoter and Propagator
ML Koser was the only successful art promoter and propagator in this part of the country. He, through Pracheen Kala Kendra, had been holding a number of spectacular cultural events on regular basis. “Monthly Baithak Programme” is one such example which was started by him in 1996 for holding performances by budding and talented artists in the fields of Music and Dance. Since then the Baithak programme has been widely appreciated by the art-loving public as well as the media.
From time to time, the Kendra holds research-based seminars and symposiums for the benefit of the artist community as well as the students. Pracheen Kala Kendra has a regular programme to invite artists of national and international repute from all over the country and abroad for giving inspiring performances of real art value in the field of their specialization for both the amusement and enlightenment of ardent music fans and other public not only in Chandigarh but also in other parts of the country. The main object of holding such music conferences, dance festivals, and symposia on music and dance is to create and maintain the highest professional standards in performances and productions, and to afford an opportunity to the students and music/dance lovers to witness and enjoy the practical demonstrations of fine arts by great maestros.
The Pracheen Kala Kendra Nritya and Sangeet Sammelan is one such regular annual feature of the Kendra where almost all the leading lights of Indian classical music and dance like Begum Parveen Sultana, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Ram Narayan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Rajan-Sajan Mishra, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Dagar Brothers, Dilip Chandra Vedi, Girija Devi, Shobha Gurtu, Ustad Shahid Parvez, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ms. Sonal Mansingh, Ms. Shovana Narayan, Ms. Sitara Devi, Ms. Shobha Koser, Ms. Leela Samson, Ms. Swapnasundari, to name a few only, have performed from time to time. This festival of music and dance is being held uninterruptedly without charging any entry fee from the general public with a view to promote Indian classical arts.
As An Art Critic
Koser is well-known in the cultural and journalistic fields throughout India and abroad. He is a noted art critic as well as a well-known commentator on political affairs. He has been writing for a number of leading newspapers such as The Kashmir Times, Dainik Kashmir Times, Urdu Daily Taskeen, Punjab Kesari, Sambad Pratidin, Daily Desh Darpan, and The Frontier Sun.
With his many achievements and activities in the diverse fields of art and culture, ML Koser has secured for him a place of eminence in the galaxy of world’s foremost exponents, originators, organizers and propagators of dance, music and other fine arts.
It has been conceded that his achievements in the myriad field of performing art have secured for him a lofty place in the galaxy of world’s foremost exponents, originators, organizers and true propagators of the musical arts. He has left behind a rich legacy and his demise created a vacuum that can never be filled. His departure on the world theatre day (March 27, 2008) reiterates the fact that his life was meant for art.
Smt. Shobha Koser is a great Kathak danseuse, perhaps the finest one in India. Her dance is an integral part of her presentations.
Launching herself as a full-fledged performer at the age of 15, she is indeed one of the rare devotees of this dance form. She has studied in minute detail practical and theoretical aspects of Kathak. Having learnt the intricacies of the Jaipur Gharana of Kathak from her Guru Kanhiya Lal, who himself was a worthy disciple of Nrityacharya late Guru Narayan Prasad, she also had the chance to polish her style from another established Guru of this Gharana, the Guru Kundan Lal Gangani. She was fortunate enough to have found in her husband late Guru Madan Lal Koser who was another great master of classical dances. Such disciple really went a long way in shaping her destiny as a dancer not just in India but abroad as well.
Nritta and Abhinaya bhava, which are the two most important facets of Kathak, have so well been integrated into her performer’s personality that Smt. Shobha Koser is able to execute these and other aspect of this dance form with utmost ease. This is primarily due to her devotion and passion for the dance which has ably imparted also to over a hundred of her disciples as the Head of the Dance Department at Government College for Girls, Sector-11, Chandigarh. It is not without significance that her disciples are spread all over the world including the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Mauritius, Kazakhstan, Tashkent (Uzbekistan), etc.
Retired as Principal of Government Post-Graduate College, Mansa (PES-1), Smt. Shobha Koser has mastered every aspect of the Jaipur Gharana. She presents its facets like Taalas, Gats, Toras, Tukras, Paran, Chakkradar Paran extremely well to earn encomiums from the art critics. The subtlety of her footwork, portrayal of emotions through “Bhava”, graceful lyrical movements are only a few of the strong of her performances. She casts a magical spell on the audience as she appears to float as delicately as on the wings of a fresh, soft spring breeze while whirling with an astounding verve and vigour.
It is her infinite capacity to involve herself and the audience with the dance performance that has enabled Smt. Koser to reach the front row of Indian classical dancers in the most natural way. She has been engaged in the dissemination of ancient arts all over the world through Pracheen Kala Kendra, the premier and one of the oldest organizations of the country.
Smt. Shobha Koser has been decorated with the titles of Nritya Shree, Nritya Surabhi, Nritya Urvashi, Shreekshetra Nati, etc. She has also been honoured with the Amala Shankar Award, Pandit Manmohan Bhatt Memorial Award, the K. Lalitha Lifetime Achievement Award and the Critics Council of India (CCI) Award twice. The Chennai-based Madras Sangeet Natak Akademi has also presented her with Kala Shiromani Award. She has also been presented with Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Konark International Award, for her eminent position as a performer and the sound theoretical knowledge of Indian classical dances.
Besides being rated as a Top grade artist by Prasar Bharati (Doordarshan), Shobha is a prominent member of Advisory Bodies of different State Governments, reputed organisations and Universities in the matter of art and culture. Presently, she holds the dual charge of Treasurer-cum-Registrar of Pracheen Kala Kendra.