Winners of Sangeet Natak Akademi's Yuva Puraskar-2009 on how they would like to contribute as artistes.

MANJULA B. MURTHY

Disciple of Guru Kalyani Kutty Amma and Guru Bharati Shivaji

Up ahead

Mohiniattam is not as well known as other dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Kathak. People mistake it for some other form. I want to popularise it so that even a lay person can recognise a performance of Mohiniattam. To achieve this I would like to perform more, as well as give lecture-demonstrations. My guruji, Bharati Shivaji, has done a lot in this respect, and I would like to follow in her footsteps. I would like to devote my time more to performing, though I do help out in teaching at my guru's Centre for Mohiniattam. If I want to work for the growth of Mohiniattam, I can't start teaching (full-time).

Appeal of the art

I'm quite a soft person, and Mohiniattam is also very soft and graceful and matches my character. I'm very expressive and Mohiniattam has a lot of scope for expression, so it suits me.

I learnt Bharatanatyam when I was in school, but I was blindly doing it. I didn't even know there were so many styles till I joined Nrityagram. When I first saw Kalyanikutty Amma, I thought this is what I want to do. (Later) when I saw Bharati Ma'am, I felt Mohiniattam has some special energy, and I started loving it even more. Her style has tremendous basics and body movements — it has vast scope, a lot to give.

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LINGARAJ PRADHAN

Disciple of Guru Bichitrananda Swain

Up ahead

I want to perform a lot and present the tradition and technique of Odissi as it should be. Great artistes like Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kelucharan Mohapatra and others took the tradition forward; I want to pass on this technique in the right way. My current guru, Bichitrananda Swain, has added elements of innovative footwork, body movements and karanas. I want to continue working with him too. I would like to learn more and more. The piece I performed on Karna was prepared in 10-15 days, but the work went on from 9 a.m. to 1.30 a.m. I read up, even watched videos of Mahabharata productions to imbibe the character. To me this is the approach to excellence. I do love to teach and choreograph for my students, and will continue to do so. I want to choreograph to more Oriya poetry. However, I am not interested in exploring poetry of languages other than Oriya and Sanskrit through Odissi, because I feel this literature is rich and untapped enough.

Appeal of the art

My favourite composition is the pallavi. I am attracted to the grace of the form. But nowadays I greatly enjoy abhinaya too. When I was young my brother Prasann Kumar Pradhan suggested I learn this dance. Gradually I got immersed in it, and I realised this is the prasad of Lord Jagannath.

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RAGINI CHANDER SHEKAR

Disciple of Guru Jamuna Krishnan and Guru K.J. Govindarajan

Up ahead

I want to take my career in a more performance-oriented direction. I would like to go into the traditional repertoire of Bharatanatyam — the works of the Tanjore Quartet, the traditional padams and javalis — and also the kind of work my mother has been doing (choreographing pieces from the works of Hindi poets). For example “Krishiv” which I performed at the festival: We had first done it in 1992. After that I did it in Delhi only now. A piece speaks very differently to you when you go back to it after a long gap like that. Then I was much younger. It has many layers. Similarly, I would like to take forward other pieces Amma has done. I think the learning curve of a dancer should never end. Teaching is something I would not like to get into for a couple of years.

Appeal of the art

The entire grammar! Some people find a formal structure very stifling, but I've never found it restricting. Even in abhinaya there is a strong grammar which we follow in terms of expressions, hastas, etc. I can't say whether the abhinaya or the nritta appeals to me more, because it's they are like two eyes. It might sound like a dichotomy, but I've always found it liberating to work within the structure of Bharatanatyam and have never felt stifled by the margam.

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MONISA NAYAK

Disciple of Guru Rajendra Gangani

Up ahead

I have always felt there is a lot of potential for abhinaya in Kathak, but it is yet to be explored. We explore the rhythmic side a lot, but less on the abhinaya side. The thumri I did at the festival, it is a traditional one, but I learnt it from Madhaviji (Odissi dancer Madhavi Mudgal). So, although I dance Kathak, I want to explore the abhinaya from other angles, and I have been influenced by the way dance arts of Kerala treat abhinaya. I also want to propagate and popularise Kathak among larger audiences.

Appeal of the art

What I like best is the different kinds of bhramaris — the chakkars. When I was young, my father brought home a video of “Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje”. There is a scene where Gopi Krishna shows the difference between commercial dance and Kathak. The room is full of pillars and he takes a chakkar of each pillar. That scene made a great impression on me. When I came to Delhi and saw Guruji's dance, I saw there was a lot of grace and also variety in his chakkars.

(As told to ANJANA RAJAN)