Putting Bharatanatyam in perspective

Sankalp Meshram working on Lasya Kavya Work Pic  

Google Sankalp Meshram and you will find only his Bollywood credentials. Dig deeper and you discover that Sankalp is an award-winning editor and film-maker, who has won the National Filmfare Award (children’s film category). In a short chat after the screening of ‘Lasya Kavya,’ the self-effacing Sankalp Meshram spoke to Rupa Srikanth about how he had to undo his film training to film for dance.

So how did you come to classical dance from Bollywood?

I am a trained editor, and Bollywood movies is not the only thing I do. I make documentaries across genres; I have also scripted and directed a children’s feature film (Chhutkan ki Mahabharat). That’s the beauty of film-making - it can be eclectic and diverse, covering different areas of human activity, from fiction to non-fiction.

With regard to ‘Lasya Kavya,’ we started out to archive this great artist’s work. Somewhere along the way, I felt I wanted to make a film shedding light on Valli’s ideas with the material we had, shot by ace cinematographer Vivek Shah and his 3 HD camera set up. The objective was to place Bharatanatyam, a classical art in general as an innovative, flexible, evolving contemporary dance form. In the context of decreasing interest in the art and the growing aesthetic vulgarity, I think it is important to place Valli’s art and Bharatanatyam in the public eye.

How was the experience of shooting a drama different from shooting a dance?

Cinema and dance contradict each other spatially. While dance interprets space through movement, cinema shows physical depth as the optical reality is cinematic space. We had to undo our regular shooting technique and make the rules afresh as we went along.

How were you able to transpose the 3D experience of watching Bharatanatyam live onto flat 2D screens?

We were conscious of this shortcoming, so we arranged for abstraction in the backdrop, either as a black background or a neutral beige (chattai) background, to highlight the dance and add depth. We used 3-lens-magnifications, with the wide-angled shot only when gestures required the full space to be seen.

When she used her eyes, we took close ups. We intensified the theatre/sabha experience using equipment for cinema. The frontal camera with its close ups did what a theatre experience cannot do.

What about the camera work?

I was lucky to have someone as resourceful as Vivek Shah to head the cinematography department. Valli is such a high-energy performer, we had to see that we never lost her in the frame. The cameramen and Valli actually seemed to dance in tandem!

Any final thoughts on ‘Lasya Kavya?’

I was keen to capture Valli’s energy on and off stage, and to show the various stages of her art. It is a tedious process really, from the music construction to the rhythm patterns, choreography, practice... She is a professional nonpareil. It is a hint at how much she works. I also feel that Alarmel Valli is beyond limitations of the form. She has reached a stage when whatever she does is Bharatanatyam, whatever she does defines Bharatanatyam. There are no worries about right and wrong.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 5:43:34 AM |

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