Finding beauty in subtlety

Parwati Dutta, who is a practitioner of both Kathak and Odissi, refuses to use her art for worldly meanings. She moved away from Delhi to the arid regions of Aurangabad, to work for the Mahagami Gurukul

Trained in Kathak and Odissi by doyens like Pt. Birju Maharaj, Kelucharan Mohapatra and Madhavi Mudgal, Pawrati Dutta has carved a niche for herself in the world of classical dance. Her passion for Kathak, especially Dhrupad, has led her to dig deep into the history of this form, which she now shares with young, budding dancers.

This versatile dancer, was in Bengaluru for a five-day workshop for senior dancers. She talks to Friday Review about her passion for the form, especially Dhrupad. Parwati has also been instrumental in setting up Mahagami Gurukul, in Aurangabad, where she has been spearheading dance training and sensitisation programmes in some of the remotest pockets of the country. That is not all she has also taken dance to prisons, to encourage inmates to take to dancing. She started learning when she was a teen and Parwati goes back in time to share her journey through dance.


You have learnt Odissi and Kathak, did the two styles not clash with each other? They are so different in style....

Odissi has always been my search. I find Kathak and Odissi very similar, especially the Kathak that I do – the thhat, uthaan , the pure dance and the dhrupad – are all so lyrical. It is we have who have changed Kathak to become a rhythmically charged form. But I feel the soul of Kathak is still lyrical. It is like the Khadi fabric, subtle and beautiful. Learning two dance forms is like learning two languages. When you know your mother tongue and learn a new language, you rediscover your own language. The same way Odissi has helped me analyse Kathak better. I find myself more educated as I can pinpoint subtle movements in the body.

What do you feel about such workshops, which teach not just the dance form but also its rich history? Should there be more such as holistic efforts?

They are not done these days. This is my first trip to Bengaluru, where I have come to ignite young minds. It is a process-oriented and not a result-oriented workshop. This is my way of sharing my years of research and study with younger dancers. Majorly workshops are shallow.

I don’t believe in the rat race, even when it comes to having a number of students. Instead, I left it -- moved out of Delhi where I was thriving to Aurangabad to work with Mahagami.

Tell us more about Mahagami.

I was there from the time of its inception. It’s been 20 years since it started. I feel I was destined to go there and work with the marginalised people. It was a random decision. It was a stretch of a barren land. I was discouraged when I was invited to teach there. But I took it up as a challenge.

It was the beginning of a new story in my life and for many others. Now it has grown. The saplings that were planted by me are now part of a lush green campus. Over the years I have trained over 2,000 dancers. Aurangabad was not ready for Mahagami. So I had to counsel the parents and help them understand the nuances and the rich history of Kathak.

What do you mean when you say a dancer has to have the responsibility towards the form?

To realise that the dance has to nurture you and your individualistic expressions. But the responsibility has to pass on to the next generation in all your honesty.

When you buy a car, you plant a tree. These are rules you have to set for yourself. We still have to consult experts, learn from them and pass on the rich heritage for generations to come.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 7:05:57 AM |

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