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A letdown

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ANJANA RAJAN

Kathak: The World of Shovana Narayan; Kamal K. Mishra; Kanishka Publishers, New Delhi. THE world of Indian dance has been so short of reference books in modern times that it is always a pleasant surprise to find one more entering the market. Therefore it was with some anticipation and a ready margin of indulgence that one picked up the book Kathak: The World of Shovana Narayan by Kamal Kishor Mishra. The intentions of the author are laudable: to make eminent Kathak dancer Shovana the subject of a study that researches the psychology and upbringing of an individual artiste. To study this aspect of Kathak, it is necessary to study its history too. Similarly, the effect of a particular artiste on the dance form is subject to the degree of receptivity of her audiences, fellow artistes, collaborators and students, all of whom contribute in propagating her ideas. Therefore the author has taken care to include in the ambit of his interviews for this work, people from all these groups, so as to provide a holistic picture of Shovana's contribution to Kathak. While the intent is noble, the result falls short of expectations. A major flaw is the use of language, which flows copiously but conveys, most of the time, little or nothing. Possibly this is not the fault of the author. A scholar of Sanskrit, oriental studies, epigraphy and arts from Jawaharlal Nehru University might not be expected to have an impressive enough command of English to put forth complex psychological concepts in lucid language comprehensible to the readers of today, but then what were the book's editors, Girishwar Mishra and Binay K. Jha, doing? On the one hand one could suggest that such a work should have been written in Hindi and later translated into English by a competent writer. On the other hand, it is not just style but substance that seems to be lacking. Despite his hard work, the author only succeedes in delivering a string of superlatives. Adjectives abound, appearing in packs in every sentence. If at all it appears alone, it has to be accompanied by the pushy "very". Shovana however, rises to the occasion every time and delivers much more concise information about her work and motivations than anybody else selected to comment on her work. It is unfortunate that a dancer who is indeed a role model for performers of her generation, her students and others junior to her has been done more a disservice than a service by being made the subject of this study.


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