Aditi Mangaldas talks of food and health even as she prepares for her new production, “Now Is”

Delhi audiences watched her years ago as one of the principal dancers in Pandit Birju Maharaj’s troupe during the Kathak maestro’s heyday at the Kathak Kendra. Then we saw her launch into her individual artistic persona with both contemporary and traditional Kathak presentations under the banner of Drishtikon Foundation. Aditi Mangaldas, versatile Kathak dancer and choreographer, has blossomed all right. But if blossoming means taking up more physical space, then it’s not the word we are looking for here. Slim to the point of looking fragile, Aditi hardly seems the type to linger long over the thought of scrumptious food. But appearances are not everything. Like her dance, the dancer has many facets. And one of those is a love for New Delhi’s Azzurro restaurant in Saket.

Good ambience

“I think this is a wonderful restaurant in terms of quality and food and the price you pay for it, and general ambience,” says Aditi. “I’ve been coming here for many years.”

As for keeping fit, “Food in terms of losing weight has never been a problem,” she says, not forgetting to touch wood. “I was actually, honestly, like many of the dancers here not very concerned about the food I ate. And we don’t have anyone to advise us,” she adds. “It started by meeting people who were a little more health conscious.”

Currently Aditi and her artistic collaborator Armin Sprotte are completely occupied with Drishtikon’s new production, “Now Is”, premiering November 8 at Kamani auditorium. “Now Is” explores the concept of time, asking questions like, “Is time cyclic, is it parallel, does it trip?” Aditi explains, “It was a sequence of questions, and one of the questions was, ‘Is it possible to live in the now?’”

With music by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan, and costumes by Wendell Rodricks, the production has many points of inspiration and collaboration, including the philosophy of J. Krishnamurti. A major constituent is the work of the late German artist Siegward Sprotte (Armin’s father), whose paintings too explore the intangible moment that is now and attempt to capture the dynamism of time.

Speaking of now, now is when Azzurro has laid out a special vegetarian and non-vegetarian platter just for Aditi and Armin. There is pita bread with hommous, and a delicious bruschetta — toasted rustic bread topped with olive, tomato, garlic and basil, along with sun-dried tomato pesto, goat’s cheese and bell pepper. The non-vegetarian selection includes char-grilled chicken with Harissa, skewered lamb and garlic prawns. Aditi, a vegetarian, loves the artichokes with Gorgonzola cheese. “It’s not exactly very healthy,” she admits, “but…”

Actually, she points out, eating sensibly means you can avoid the bingeing syndrome. Bingeing could have been a problem, what with a rigorous rehearsal regime spanning the day, and leaving Aditi, round about 6 p.m., “ready to eat anything.” But she makes it a point to stock tofu and sprouts. “If you think about what you’re eating two minutes before you eat it, you can have something healthy and delicious.”

To keep up her strenuous lifestyle, Aditi needs a lot of proteins. “How much dal can I eat,” she remarks, saying she makes up her requirement by taking protein supplements and lots of grains.

“I believe in having a good breakfast,” she says. After a three-hour rehearsal comes “a normal dal-roti lunch, but no ghee on the rotis and lots of salads.” More physical work, and “at 3 o’clock I must have carbohydrates,” she relates. “The same thing happens at 6.”

The day is described, but it’s not over. Herbal teas and coffees drunk, dessert given the go-by, it’s time now, to get back to Now.