Thursday, 3 September 2020

Punarnava – an inspiring initiative


Punarnava -- Resurrection through Dance, was a commendable online initiative during the pandemic by well known Hyderabad-based classical dancer-teacher and orator, Ananda Shankar Jayant. She chose four iconic artists, whose life stories and the challenges they overcame in order to stay true to their passions, were awe-inspiring. Listening to how they rose resplendent as the phoenix, renewing themselves, will surely provide many the inner strength required to stay on the chosen path no matter what vicissitudes may come their way. The session revealed that the success of these stalwarts had not come to them as a ready package. The arduous, at times hazardous, journeys of these artists had at times come to a point when many would have given up. However, their indomitable will, incredible passion for the art, combined with hard work, determination, discipline and dedication have made them what they are today.

The iconic artist and Rajya Sabha MP, Sonal Mansingh was the first to be interviewed by Ananda Shankar Jayant.  Trained in music, Bharatanatyam and Odissi, she did not think twice before running  away from affluence, after graduating while in her late teens, driven by her inner courage  and conviction – to find her gurus in Bengaluru. She has always been “constant as the Northern Star” as far as her passion for dance goes. She gave up the comfort of her home at that early age when most would not have dared to do so.

Even after a serious car accident in Germany, when doctors had declared that she would never dance again, her determination not to let go, led her on the arduous and painful path of recovery.  The viewers were awestruck and many were moved to tears by the story of resurrection of this nonpareil artist. Though a septuagenarian, this accomplished artist is as energetic as ever, travelling around the globe,  giving performances and conducting workshops. Her will power is indomitable; if Sonal Mansingh wants do something, she does it and if she does not want to, then no power on earth can force to! That is what the power of the human spirit means to this charismatic artist. 

For Ramaa Bhardwaj it was faith  that powered her destiny; faith has shown her the way to resurrect her life. She answered  the call of her guru to leave her successful dance career in the US to join Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukul in India. She received a “divine signal” from Lord Nataraja in Chidambaram, to start teaching when she could not dance anymore. While in the United States, Ramaa  had led  a successful protest march  of artists in California, when their grants  were stopped. She soon realised her inner strength when the Arts Council restored the  grants. Presently, she is an able story teller who curates the festivals of her gurukul. She gave up her lucrative work of teaching and performing dance with divine inspiration.

Anita Ratnam is a multifaceted  artist trained in Bharatanatyam,  Mohini Attam, Tai-chi and Kalaripayattu by stalwarts. Her versatility is not confined to dance alone. She was a successful television producer and commentator in New York. She has a doctorate, a Masters degree in dance theatre besides being a contemporary classicist. She  left her lucrative career to relocate in Chennai -- her home city where she grew up. Her journey too has been a fascinating tale as she dared, where few would venture. She has lived her art life on her own terms;  “barefoot and solo” she has traversed new ground. Her out-of-the-box thinking has invariably made her come up with novel and creative ideas. She has pioneered Arangham Trust, launched -- an online dance magazine soon after, with a full-fledged list of all artists and their addresses. Research oriented articles are to be found regularly in narthaki.  

Ananda Shankar Jayant, the convenor of this virtual programme,  was interviewed by her disciple Sneha Magpu. Nothing can match her ability to deal with every contingency -- be it her ability to come out from her life threatening affliction and her incredible TED talk. Dance has always been her passion and she has plunged into it heart and soul. Proficient in both Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, she did not lag behind in her academic pursuits but qualified in the civil services, which would take care of her finances. As one can imagine, managing a high profile job alongside her passion for dance could not possibly have been  a bed of roses.  Uncannily and invariably she made the right choices. And today she stands tall amongst artists. In the difficult times of Covid 19 marked by isolation and social distancing, Punarnava was her inspiring  contribution to the dance community and aspiring dancers.     

What these icons shared, has the ingredients to make a one-of-its-kind-book. With carefully selected illustrations, it  would be  inspirational material for artists and connoisseurs alike – especially the young – to follow their dream and  forge new paths with grit and determination.

Our technological advancement has certainly made a difference. Had not Covid 19 hit us globally, the idea of holding programmes online would not have caught on. Programmes are being viewed by several hundreds across the globe, rather than a half-full hall of audience! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube – have all played a role in reaching out to the  elite and  the enthusiasts alike.


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