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Updated: January 24, 2013 19:44 IST

Inspired by mythology

Aabha Anoop
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Sanchita Bhattacharya Photo: K. Ragesh
The Hindu
Sanchita Bhattacharya Photo: K. Ragesh

Sanchita Bhattacharya mixes socially relevant ideas with themes from Indian mythology.

It was hard for Yashoda to put Krishna to bed for the toddler was wide awake. But she insisted that he go to bed instead of playing pranks on her. She closed the windows with care lest the sound should wake up the child. It was when she was checking again to see if the child was asleep that the hall filled with applause. The mother requested them, through articulate mudras, to remain quiet as the child was sleeping. After a few seconds of pin drop silence, the applause became thunderous and danseuse Sanchita Bhattacharya completed the transformation from Yashoda to resume her performance. Odissi danseuse Sanchita was in Kozhikode recently to entertain a group of school kids.

Hailed as the ‘Ambassador of Odissi’, she has been honoured with the title ‘Sree Kshetra Mahari’ by the Jagannath Temple, Puri, where Odissi dance evolved. In an exclusive interview to Friday Review, Sanchita reveals her vision and mission in dance.

“God has given me talent and a mission and I intend to live up to His expectations,” she says. Sanchita is known for the socially relevant themes that she chooses for her projects. She selects themes from Indian mythology into which she weaves in her ideas and messages. Issues of women’s liberation are her favourite.

Her ‘Draupadi Phenomenon’ was a big hit when it was first launched in 2005. ‘Draupadi Phenomenon’ highlights a woman’s right to live with honour, dignity, self-respect and to carve her own niche in life.

Sanchita highlights the power of womanhood through the depictions of ‘Adi Shakti’, the mother Goddess in Indian mythology. Her upcoming project is on the ‘Maharis’ (Devadasis) and on the social stigma faced by them.

Sanchita is perhaps the only Indian classical dancer to have given a solo performance at Madison Square Garden in New York, one of the largest auditoriums in the world. She has also performed for the under privileged and for children.

“After I performed at one of Mother Teresa’s ashrams for specially-abled children, a little boy came to me and started fiddling with my head gear and ornaments. He said I was beautiful and that I danced beautifully. I discovered later that he was visually challenged. He had picturised me in his mind while I was dancing, and by touching my face and speaking to me, he was trying to make sure that I was what he felt in his mind. Dance speaks the language of humanity, of universal thinking, and of the heart,” she says.

Although Sanchita was a judge for a dance reality show for women who quit dance post marriage, she is apprehensive about such shows, as the really talented +participants are often neglected.

Sanchita believes that dance is not mere entertainment. “All classical dance forms of India are a form of communion with God. These art forms were designed to be performed in places of worship,” she adds. The danseuse is, however, apprehensive about the future of these art forms in the present cultural scenario and advocates the inclusion of art as a subject in the school curriculum.

“Give children an option. Let them decide whether they want it or not, just like how they chose from maths, science, language and other subjects these days after class 10,” she says.

According to her, the advantage of learning dance, especially Odissi, is that it enhances the left and right brain interaction, which improves concentration and helps students focus better. The arts are often a positive addiction that leaves no space for negative addiction, making the children more tolerant and less prone to choosing a path of crime, she says.

The accomplished dancer is making her debut on the silver screen in the movie Moksha, directed by Karin Kauffman. She plays a dancer who is crippled in an accident, but is helped by a physiotherapist to get back on stage.

She admits that she is looking forward to an invitation from Kerala to present ‘Draupadi Phenomenon’ in the state.

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