When the times are tough, it's a relief to turn towards artistic endeavours and seek solace from them. However, what happens when the very source we seek our solace in is under distress? Such is the situation of performing artists in our country — the pandemic has not only put a stop on varied performances, but also greatly affected their livelihood. In order to raise funds for performing artists, Raw Mango in collaboration with the Kathak maestro Aditi Mangaldas, has released a set of six short films.
Sanjay Garg has always been at the forefront of all things artistic and Indian. Talking about this joint effort and Aditi, he tells us, ‘Kala, is a by-product of all forms of artistic creation — textile, dance, music…and it should not be seen as separate from one another, but in support of each other. I have always connected with Aditi's performances. They are an expression and exploration of the times, the way she re-imagines and questions the norms within Kathak is inspiring. She depicts the art’s evolution overtime, shown in a continuum with the present and linked to the future — there is a strong connection between our narratives in this regard.’
Recognised for her artistry, technique, eloquence and characteristic energy, Aditi Mangaldas is one of the leading voices when it comes to Kathak today. We reached out to her to know about this collaboration, how she’s been holding up during the lockdown and what’s coming up next, inspite of the pandemic.
How has your relationship with dance evolved?
It is very important for me as an artist to see my dance breathing the air of ‘Today’ — I mean that one has to be constantly vigilant, playful and curious to let one’s art evolve. I can’t remember a time when I was not dancing! So it has been a part of my existence from the time I remember, and as I’ve aged, I hope my dance has aged with me too.
What is it that you want the audience to take away from your performances now, as opposed to when you started out?
I hope that even a tiny bit of resonance with my dance can be felt by the viewer across time and space. Initially, one was thrilled by immediate applause, but now I hope that I am able to make even a little transformation in the viewers’ heart/ mind — a subtle change that she/he may carry with them and smell the fragrance, feel the resonance years later.
A still from the short film Empassion
What do you think is the distinguishing factor between a good performance and a bad one? What do you believe in more instinct or rehearsal?
Dance is a coming together of instinct and rehearsal — it can’t be one or the other. For me, imagination is far more important than knowledge, as said by Einstein. When a performer/performance has awakened your senses towards myriad avenues of imagination, when a performer/performance is able to change something within the viewer and the viewer is able to resonate with it years later — maybe that could be a great performance?
Tell us about your collaboration with Raw Mango and what motivated it?
All of us at Drishtikon, my dance company, are very grateful that a fashion house has looked beyond its immediate circle and supported us. We had approached Raw Mango with the proposal of the six films, Within…from within, which is sourced from our original work WITHIN, along with our current creative impulse from the confines of our homes.
Raw Mango too believes in widening connectivity between the arts and hence the collaboration worked very well. They suggested that we should crowdfund and raise awareness, as well as money, for the many artists who are left without any form of sustenance and are struggling to survive. We were very happy to have the films be a part of this initiative — Raw Mango has a wide network which may have the financial capacity to donate, if people wish to. Hence this collaboration took on a more meaningful aspect. We hope that people are generous with their heart and their money!
A still from the film Wrapped
The world has been thrust into a rather baffling and challenging time. What do you think can be the possible role of the arts and dance in our current situation?
Can you think of being in isolation during the lockdown without music, poetry, literature, dance, film — artistic experiences that enhance one’s existence and helps you find solace within these unprecedented times? The arts nourish us, and nourish the humanity within us.
Lastly how have you been coping with the lockdown and what’s lined up next?
My first reaction was to reach out and touch people, even though virtually, with sharing dance online. People, as far as from Peru, responded! This brought a sense of belonging and sanity in this unprecedented situation. It also helped me completely immerse in dance — regular rehearsals with proper schedules and to find that creative spark within the current environment. I think once the anxiety dissolved, the process took over and we have found new ways of communicating. After all, I am a Kathakar! Though my stories may have changed and my way of communicating the stories may have changed — I am grateful that the stories are still a part of me.
Besides our current collaboration with Raw Mango, we have collaborated with the Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Oddbird Theatre, Delhi and many other platforms, where thoughts and ideas were exchanged. After Within…from within, our next initiative is to make every dance member of my company choreograph their own work — this initiative is called 1x1 and will be in collaboration with Institute Francaise. I am also collaborating with NCPA, Bombay and Aakash Odedra on a series of workshops meant for an international audience.
Donate to the performers: https://teamworkarts.com/art-matters/support/raw-mango-and-aditi-mangaldas
Text Unnati Saini
The collaborators: Aditi Mangaldas and Sanjay Garg