Mythology’s invisible women come to light

The Sanjali Centre for Odissi dance is presenting ‘Sucharitaa’, a coming together of three dance forms to bring to the forefront three of Indian mythology's lesser known female characters in a new lig

Published: 14th November 2017 10:27 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2017 08:17 AM   |  A+A-

Gopika Varma

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: The Sanjali Centre for Odissi dance is presenting ‘Sucharitaa’, a coming together of three dance forms to bring to the forefront three of Indian mythology's lesser known female characters in a new light.Odissi danseuse Sharmila Mukerjee's Kaikeyi, Kuchipudi exponent Vyjayanthi's Sharmishte and renowned Mohiniyattam dancer Gopika Varma's Kunti, will bring a fresh perspective on these not-so-popular characters.City Express caught up with the three dancers, who tell us a bit about their journey and the characters they are going to be playing.

‘Kunti is a difficult character to play’

How long have you been dancing? When did you know that this was something you'd want to do for the rest of your life?
I started dancing at the age of three. This is what I have been doing since childhood, I don't know the exact moment I knew that this was my goal, I just kept dancing.

How is the popularity of your art form being kept alive? Has the younger generation taken to Mohaniyattam?
Personally, I think the number of students I get at my schools in Chennai and Bengaluru, and the number of national and international performances each year, are an indicator of how popular the dance form is.

With Sucharitaa, you will be bringing to light the lesser known female mythological character, Kunti. Tell us what you like most about the character you're portraying and why you chose the particular character.
Kunti is a difficult character to play. She is a mother who is forced to lose her child, so she is constantly negotiating with her son to save the other five children. She's a strong character, and that's why I wanted to portray her.

How is performing in the city according to you? One thing about the city you love/hate.
I love Bengaluru, the audience here is beautiful and receptive.

‘Innovation, tradition keep Odissi alive’

How long have you been dancing? When did you know that this was something you'd want to do for the rest of your life?
I have been dancing for over three decades now. I always knew as a child that this is what I wanted. I would read books about artistes, their lives, their struggles and found it fascinating.

How is the popularity of your art form being kept alive? Has the younger generation taken to Odissi?
The popularity of the dance form is being kept alive through the guru-shishya parampara, because it is a traditional art which we are teaching.The legacy is passed down from generation to generation. Odissi is kept alive with traditional repertoire and innovative works - both have to go together.
With Sucharitaa, you will be bringing to light the lesser known female mythological character, Kaikeyi. Tell us what you like most about the character you're portraying and why you chose the particular character.

I like the fact that Kaikeyi is as human as any character, and has her faults like anyone else. She is passionate, loving, brave, determined and stubborn. It is interesting to portray the extensive range of emotions that come with playing her. I chose this character because she is not as negative and vile as people think she is. She made decisions that ruined her life, and she regretted them later.

How is performing in the city according to you? One thing about the city you love/hate.
I love performing in Bengaluru, the audience here is genuinely interested in the arts. However, due to traffic congestion, people are not able to come to watch shows sometimes, which I hate.

Was there ever a moment in the early years of dancing where stage fright got to you?
I cannot remember stage fright ever setting in. But before going on stage, even now, there is tension and a queasy feeling in the stomach, it's very natural and disappears the moment I get on stage. If these feelings weren't there, it would be unnatural.

In what ways has dance helped you personally?
Dance is holistic, it teaches one so many things together. It has helped me grow as a person, and also deal with professional and personal struggles. I cannot imagine life without dance.

Vyjayanthi kashi

‘Young dancers have more courage’

How long have you been dancing? When did you know that this was something you'd want to do for the rest of your life?
I started dancing as a child, but disconnected from it at the age of 13. At 27, I started dancing again because it was then that I knew that this was something I wanted to continue on with.

How is the popularity of your art form being kept alive? Has the younger generation taken to Kuchipudi?
When people see a good dancer, a good theme and good quality of performance, people start talking about it and spread the word. I think that's how it's being kept alive. I've noticed that young dancers these days have a lot more courage, they take up this form of dance purely out of passion.

With Sucharitaa, you will be bringing to light the lesser known female mythological character, Sharmishta. Tell us what you like most about the character you're portraying and why you chose the particular character.
Sharmistha (daughter of King Vrisparva), or Nathura Rani, sacrifices her royal stats to become a handmaiden to save her kingdom and her father from a terrible curse. The strength she shows in becoming a servant from a princess was what inspired me to portray her.

How is performing in the city according to you? One thing about the city you love/hate.
Bengaluru is my base city, it has made me grow as a person, it is my identity.

Was there ever a moment in the early years of dancing where stage fright got to you?
I wouldn't call it stage fright, rather, a sense of nervousness, which goes away once I get into character.

In what ways has dance helped you personally?
Through be able to play different characters, dance has helped me grow and cross various boundaries.

When and where
The event is being held at Seva Sadan in Malleswaram on November 16 at 6.30pm. Entry is free. Contact +91 9886231500 for further details.

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