Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee and senior Kathak dancer-guru Geetanjali Lal, says that India is immensely rich in heritage classical art forms, including dance, music, art and theatre, and feels that “every child should at least be aware of the art forms”, which she finds is not the case currently.
The founder of Devi Durga Kathak Sansthan, Lal told IANSlife while sharing her views on classical education in the country: “I am not saying everyone has to take up some art form or dance form as a profession, but one must know and be able to identify, which is what. The information is passed on to the younger generation, but only to the ones who have a keen interest in learning it; they receive it in the most skilled way, but it shouldn’t only be limited to them. I see a major difference in the knowledge or even just the idea of a particular dance form amongst kids who are studying dance and non-dancers.
“I have heard this?? So many times from non-artistes – “Oh is it so? I never knew Kathak and Kathakali are two different dance forms”. This shouldn’t be the case. Schools should at least introduce the art forms in the most legit way to the kids in school.”
The veteran danseuse is also a trained Hindustani musician before a Kathak expert.
She shares, “before Kathak, music came to my life. Music has been my subject since childhood. My father Shri Rajnikant Desai, was a well-known classical vocalist of Agra Gharana. He was the disciple of Aftab-E-Mausiqi (the sun of music) Ustad Faiyaz Khan. I would wake up in the morning and would see my father engulfed in his riyaaz. My mornings were always rung by the sound of Tanpura. Eventually, he taught me music. So I am a trained Hindustani musician before a Kathak dancer.”
Lal fondly recalls that her mother would see her dancing to any tune being played, and observed her knack at dancing as well. Lal has trained under stalwarts, including Madhubala’s ‘Saqi’ (1952) choreographer Gopi Krishna, and Pt Devi Lal, who happened to be her husband as well.
From beginning her career sharing the stage with renowned dancers of her time, she then moved on to performing nationally and internationally, along with bagging several awards. Her son Abhimanyu Lal is among the many disciples she has today.
How important is Kathak for her “Kathak for me is obviously the most important aspect of my life. I chose it as my career, in times when it was very difficult to pursue it professionally. I could have been a doctor or an engineer. But I chose this, for I was madly in love with this art form. I think of Kathak all day, I teach Kathak, I choreograph Kathak, I research on it. So everything is actually about Kathak.”
Lal recently curated the classical dance and music festival, Aavartan, organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, which live-streamed exceptional young classical talent, and was well-appreciated by the artiste community.
“Putting up art shows, showcasing it in the most organised way is a very necessary thing to do, as that is the way it will be conceived by the audience. And we as artists would never want anything misleading to reach out to the world. A well-curated and well-organised classical event only brings out the best from, the richly defined art form, which surely helps the artist community to grow bigger,” she signed off.