`Dance isn't a collection of items'
Tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and Kathak danseuse Aditi Mangaldas in conversation
NONCONFORMISTS Aneesh Pradhan and Aditi Mangaldas may feel uncomfortable being put on a pedestal but concede that the tradition is greater than the individual
They represent the contemporary generation of Indian artistes suave, intelligent and ever questioning to find a new path and explore unknown vistas. Their worldview is rooted in the Indian ethos, yet totally global in its myriad manifestations.
Alka Raghuvanshi brings together tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and dancer Aditi Mangaldas for a Take Two, as they have worked together in the past and share a great camaraderie.
Aditi: Why are you called `Munshiji' by your friends?
Aneesh: Never mind me! Why are you called `Munshiji'?
Aditi: Perhaps because I keep filling up registers about what needs to be done in my production! Unfortunately, it doesn't extend to the rest my life! Now your turn to own up!
Aneesh: It was a fallout of my PhD training. All the meticulous research methodology stayed with me!
Aditi: How does a trained academic deal with the hypocrisy of the art world?
Aneesh: When I am asked whether I relate to all the formalities of the music world like feet touching and ijaazat, etc., I find it difficult to answer. At one level, I relate to it and am comfortable doing it, but when my students do it to me, I feel ridiculous, for, in a way they are putting me in the same category as the gurus and that makes me really uncomfortable.
Aditi: Initially, feet touching used to bother me a lot. As I grew older, I realised it was a relationship not only between me and the guru but also between me and society. However, when my students do it to me, I find it a bit silly, but I suppose it has more to do with your self-perception. My family was very close to J. Krishnamurthy and I remember he would just sit down on the floor when someone touched his feet!
Aneesh: On the other hand, when I am teaching, it is not just the tabla I am teaching, it is also about personality development, the tehzeeb that goes with it and sharing all aspects of what I have learnt. It is part of the desire to pass it on to somebody with a contemporary perspective.
Aditi: I have many lively discussions with members of my company, for, I don't want to create clones like some senior gurus do. They are free to learn from whoever they want.
Aneesh: Exactly! None can be a complete original but I'd rather they were bad originals than wonderful clones!
Aditi: How do you deal with stylistic complications of students who have been learning from another guru?
Aneesh: I tell them to seek permission but at the same time I don't look upon them as my property. I want them to be convinced for I am happy to explain my logic as to why I play a certain piece the way I do. Teaching has been a major education for me as well.
Aditi: Students come to me wanting to learn only `items'. I find that very distressing, for dance is a process not a mere collection of `items'!
Aneesh: After all, we are living in the age of the Indian Idol! You have chosen to express yourself in an idiom that is rooted in Kathak, but doesn't strictly adhere to the traditional format. What triggered off this journey?
Aditi: I have been dancing since I was five, but there came a point when I started feeling that some part of me was not dancing. My guru, Kumudini Lakhia, then sent me to Delhi (from Ahmedabad) to train under Guru Birju Maharaj. Here too, after nearly six years, I started feeling that some part of me was not dancing. I think it was my involvement with women's issues that provided the conviction. Besides, I was fed up of feeling (emoting) shy, getting drenched in the panghat!
Aneesh: How did the traditionalists respond?
Aditi: The tug of war continues! They thought I was irreverent! But the lec-dem format was just not me.
PHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR
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