A storyteller and a brilliant performer—when dancer Savitha Sastry is on stage you are spellbound. She speaks to Postnoon on her life dedicated to dance.
What made you take up Bharatanatyam?
I do not even remember when I developed an interest in dance. At the age of five years, I remember paying 25 paise coins to our domestic help, Kalyani to pretend to be a Bollywood dance sequence and be my hero! My family resided in King’s Circle right across Shanmukananda Hall, the centre of south Indian classical dance and theatre in Mumbai. This gave me convenient access to shows by the greatest talents of that time. As a young child, I could wander off unobstructed to the green rooms and gawk at dancers like Sanjukta Panigrahi, Padma Subramaniam, Hema Malini, Vyjayanthimala, and many others. Needless to say it created a deep and lasting impression sparking off a lifelong love affair.
Have you learnt any other form of dance?
Bharatanatyam takes up all my time and energy. It requires a lifetime of learning. And therefore I have not had the time or inclination to learn any other dance form.
Bharatanatyam an expression of self or only a medium to convey a message or a higher learning?
Not just Bharatanatyam, any dance form should be the expression of an engaging story or an intelligent subject matter. Unfortunately it has been propagated as a means of expressing oneself rather than a story. And I say unfortunate because it has become an exercise in egoism. However, parts of a dancer’s personality do colour the theme they portray; as long as it does not become larger than the theme itself, it would be acceptable.
What are the challenges you face today as a Bharatanatyam dancer?
The challenge has been two-fold. One was communicating to the Bharatanatyam cliche which probably consists of a minuscule percentage of the population that, a change is necessary, and my method could be effective in re-igniting interest in Bharatanatyam. The other side of the challenge was to show to the world at large that Bharatanatyam shows can be as interesting as other popular mainstream forms and was not just a beautiful classical tradition to be revered, but rarely attended.
If you had to introduce this dance form to today’s generation, how would you do it?
Our forays into dance theatre productions such as Music Within, Soul Cages, and now Yudh, aim at offering intelligent and contemporary stories not rooted in religion or mythology. The production values rival that of Broadway and yet it is firmly rooted in Bharatanatyam. This is how we are introducing this classical art form to the current generation.
What are the major sources of influence and inspiration ?
Cinema has been a major influence on my productions in the sense that it manages to engage with the audience at a level where they cannot take their eyes off the screen for hours at an end! There are countless examples of films that are talked about several decades after they are released. I cannot think of any classical performance that manages to do that.
Your show Yudh brought forth the difference between good and bad. The message being quite old, how do you think your work is showing it in a new way?
Good versus bad is as old as humankind. It is how we re-wrote the entire concept that makes it interesting. We discover that the lines between right and wrong depend on who is looking. Yudh is not Ramayana, with lines clearly drawn out to define the good and bad. This is a contemporary story where definitions of good and bad change between each protagonist. The treatment is novel. Savitha Sastry performed recently in the City at Ravindra Bharathi.
Category: Life & Style