Mallika: Live performances are soul of arts

Advertisement

We at Darpana have been experimenting a lot with this. It is a different kind of opportunity if one is open to innovation experimentation…says Mallika.

The National Centre of the Performing Arts (NCPA) reopened for audiences after a prolonged hiatus of nearly one and a half years. With a specially curated line-up for art lovers, a range of events from Theatre to Western Classical and Hindustani Classical Music, Classical Dance and International Music will be showcased at the elegantly designed Tata Theatre.

Yesterday ‘An Evening with Mallika Sarabhai & Rama Vaidyanathan’ had the audience enthralled. Gems of Kuchipudi by Mallika Sarabhai with Darpana Academy of Performing Art was a rare performance which will be etched in the momeries of those present.

Sarabhai learnt Kuchipudi from Guru CR Acharyelu, one of the two original students of the father of solo Kuchipudi, Lakshminarayan Shastri. This style maintains a certain robustness and earthiness that keeps it apart from the style of Kuchipudi that has been greatly influenced by Bharatanatyam, and is the more frequently followed and seen.

We caught up with the danseuse to talk about her love for the artform and her performance. Read Excerpts:

How did you feel about returning to a live audience and being back on the stage after a hiatus of almost 2 years?

Nervous. Tense. Excited. Exhilarated

The pandemic along with depriving artistes of their livelihoods, also created a vacuum of any cultural and social stimulation for people. What are your thoughts on this?

Artists have been neglected in this country since the demise of royalty. While the early government set up the Ministry of Culture and important institutions got a fallback position, artisans and folk and tribal artists have never been sustained in the way they should, in a country whose primary uniqueness is culture. Recent years have shown that those who tow the line get supported. The situation was bad and made more so by the pandemic. Would we have had powers as the governments of Germany and Australia, who gave grants to artists across the board, a long and sustained financial support that is not based on favouritism or political bias is desperately needed. And the business world must step in.

Most say that the Indian education system doesn’t foster and encourage arts and creativity either. Do you agree and in your opinion, what needs to be done to make arts and creativity more inclusive amongst the youth?

International study has underlined the importance of arts education for creativity, cognitive development, and physical and mental health. The famous STEM is now STEAM and includes the arts in their broadest terms. Our education still makes us into exam acing machines not wholesome individuals. We are still making cogs for the industrial age rather than being human beings.

Theatre, shows and plays were aired live on OTT introducing many to the world of live performances, do you feel this was a good move?

Mostly for free. The Delhi sultanate and embassy culture has offered so many free shows for so many years that it is difficult to make audiences pay. OTT can help if we get paid audiences. People locked up in homes will watch whatever. Can we make performance for OTT? How do we rechoreograph for a digital audience? We at Darpana have been experimenting a lot with this. It is a different kind of opportunity if one is open to innovation experimentation.

Do you believe dance helps one connect with their higher self?

Yes, it can be. But it can also become a physical exercise. It depends on each of us.

Mallika Sarabhai

NCPA is doing a lot to put some interesting events back on the itinerary. In your opinion, are institutions like this are the backbone of culture in a society that is primarily driven by digital media?

Live performances are the soul of the arts. The communication between the artist and audience is what forms Rasa. There are no Rasikas without Rasa. We at Natarani are trying to rebuild this too. It is crucial.

Can you talk about your performance?

My guru, CR Acharyelu was the first person not born in Kuchipudi village to be taken to the fold of what was called ‘Bhagvata Mela Natakam’, a parallel universe of dance in the temples performed by the devadasis. Acharyelu’s grandfather used to teach temple dancing to the devadasis. So, he learned both forms. Perhaps he is the only one in that position. I celebrated him and his pieces.

ALSO READ-SPECIAL: Birmingham Thyagaraja Festival 2021