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Arupa Lahiri’s Bharathanatyam: Devotion and love intertwined

When Arupa Lahiri’s bharathanatyam performance as part of Rasavikalpam at Chavara Cultural centre in Kozhikode, concluded recently, one spectator, P.K.Kutty, a member of Calicut Heritage Forum said:

“Great dance and now it is great showers!”

It was the opening day of 10 day long dance –cum- workshop conducted by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy.

Many felt the raining immediately after her dance as ‘blessing’.

The evening was dedicated to the theme of Lord Krishna throughout her Bharathanatyam.

“I am a spiritual worshipper of Lord Krishna…..I like Krishna; everything is

madhuram… (sweetness)…there. Lord Krishna himself is a great dancer!

I am spiritual if not religious…….I take themes of love and devotion based on Krishna stories.”-says Arupa.

Her expressions and subtle movements mesmerized the audience.

Gopikas love and care on Lord Krishna,how Krishna’s very name becomes a strength for Prahlada and Panchali during their agony, and none is able to explain the most beautiful mohanaroopam (the graceful form) of Lord Krishna and the unique charm of the divine music from his eternal flute…. divine experience for all beings.

Her presentation of the theme in simple but beautiful English also was very engaging.

In an exclusive interview with the CNM after her elegant performance, this Kolkota born Bharathanatyam artist disclosed her dedication to this art.

She is now settled in Delhi. She has travelled in some of the European countries, Canada and Malaysia to perform Bhrathanatyam.

She began her learning when she was five year. She learnt the dance for ten years under Suparna Sengupta and Malobika.Laterr years Lahiri decided to explore more in Bharathanatyam and

joined at Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts under the guidance of her guru Chithra Viswesaran.

Arupa is a senior fellow of the Department of Culture,government of India.

She is a PhD scholar in English Literature. However, she says that her research is like a ‘hobby’ and dance is like a full time engagement to her, regarding the time investment!

Expressions:

Expressions come little natural to me. I do not practice abhinaya, much (acting)

In few seconds various moods appear on a dancer’s face. Practice helps lot to get it.

I visualise, feel, and all characters appear before me.

When I visualise Lord Krishna with his shringara bhava, the expression reaches to ecstasy.

Once we merge with the art, everything comes natural.

Rasanubhuti.
I tried to take the audience through the various rasas of life, be it that of love, rage, disgust or pity.

Music:

The blend of orchestration is very much a significant for the success of a dancer. I enjoy the vibrant support of a very good orchestra team. (Vocals: Kaushik Champakesan

Nattuvangam: Kum. Jai Quehaeni

Mridangam: Nellai Kanan

Violin: Nellai Viswanath)

Really, music carries a dancer, ahead. Dance is determined by the orchestration.

All my energy level has been empowered by nothing other than music.

Rhythm in Dance:

 

Rhythm in dance is like the beating of heart in a human body. It is the very life force or atman in the body. We have heard stories where the apsaras were cursed and thrown out of the courts of devlok for having missed rhythm such is the importance of rhythm. I hail from North India so the nuances of Carnatic Tala system used to baffle me a lot. But, gradually, I have started enjoying the beauty of rhythm in dance. The choreography I presented here (Kozhikode) was mostly composed on Adi Talam except one piece which was set to Rupaka Tala, a beat cycle of 6 macro beats and Pushpalatika Ragam.

Shringara or love in Dance:

arupa2

I focus all my theme mainly on love and shringara. And; most importantly I concentrate Lord Krishna’s stories in my dance form.

Shringara is hailed to be the Raja Rasa in the Indian Theory of Aesthetics. All other rasas can be traced back to shringara.

However, Shringara is not just the coarse love between a man and a woman. It is also the love of the soul for the Divine. My style of Bharatnatyam always talks about the bhakti-shringara where the soul of the jeevatma is calling out to the Paramatma, where devotion and love are intertwined.

The circumstances of liking an art form from South India

This was not a matter of choice. My mother likes Bharatnatyam over all other dance forms and had put me in that class when I was five year old. However, when I grew older I realised that one life time is not enough to understand one art form completely. Being a North Indian I had to struggle with the language, music and even the culture when I initially started taking this up as a profession. But once you immerse yourself completely in your art all struggles become gates that you open one by one to enter more and more in this wonderland.

Training in Kalaripayattu

I have trained in Kalaripayattu ( a martial art of Kerala)for about two years under Shaji K. John of Chennai. However, this training was not to become a trained Kalari practitioner but to discover the core of energy within one self.

Memorable Experience with Guru:
Every minute spent with my guru Padmashri Awardee Chitra Visweswaran is memorable by itself for she is like an ocean of knowledge in her vision from which i am still collecting shells let alone the gems. However, one interesting incident that I will never forget is the visit to the museum of Louvre, Paris with her where she opened my eyes to the beautiful play of light and shade in Pre-Raphaelite paintings which has influenced her concepts of how to use lights in dance poetically. That inspiration for dance does not come only from classrooms but art is a holistic subject is what i learnt in those few hours.

Support from Parents/ Family

Behind every successful person, there is a supportive family. I am lucky enough to have parents who have never ever stopped me from following my dreams. Even when my father was seriously ill he urged me not to cancel my commitments but carry on and my mother has been relentless in sculpturing me ever since childhood. She had opened my eyes to various aesthetic principles of life letting my creative impulse find its own course. I thank God for making me the child of such loving parents.

My husband is a jazz musician and a touchstone in my life. Dedication, perseverance and surrender to art are what I have learnt from him. We stay in separate cities and most of the times are busy with our individual concert schedules but our passion for art is what binds us together and keeps us going.

Advice to young aspirants:

The first thing is your passion and devotion to this art form. Children who come to this filed, don’t think it’s just like taking another five year degree. It requires more and more strenuous practice. It will take years and years to make you perfect.

 

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