Ambitious artists are always looking for opportunities to promote their art and also themselves but, then there are some like Kolkatta based Kathak Guru Luna Poddar who leave behind great international opportunities only to be close to the deep roots and the rich culture that India has to offer. Luna Poddar is a Kathak dancer, teacher, choreographer and the founder director of Prerna Center for Performing Arts, Kolkata. She has won several accolades including recommendation by Sangeet Natak Akademi, National Scholarship from Government of India, Bharat Nirman Award and Outstanding Young Person of Kolkata award. Recently Ms. Poddar came up with her latest production Suryajyoti a show inspired by our shlokas which say that Sun is the only Pratyaksha Daivam. Post the performance I caught up with the very excited Luna who plans to travel to Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and more with the show, excerpts from the interview:
Tell me about your dance training?
My training in Kathak started at a very early age of 4. I trained under Kathak Guru Pandit Vijai Shankar ji of Lucknow Gharana at Padatik Dance Center, a school for classical and contemporary dance in Kolkata, founded by Shri Shyamanand Jalan, a Kolkata based Indian theatre director and actor. I went on to associate with Padatik, for almost 17 years. Simultaneously I also learnt from Padma Vibhushan Late Pandit Birju Maharaj, Guru Smt. Kumudini Lakhia, Guru Shri Kalanidhi Narayanan, Guru Smt. Rani Karna, Prof. Deitmar Seyffert (Germany), Jonathan Hollander (USA) and more.
Later I performed for many shows like Shrishti, Roopmati, Baaz Bahadur, Romeo Juliet, Samanvay, Astanayika, Chand Gati, Sham-e-Roshan, Ibadaat, Antaheen Yatra and many more. Then SAMPAD, Birmingham, invited me as a resident Kathak teacher and Choreographer between 1996-2000. While in Birmingham I performed at The Nehru Center, International Convention Center (ICC), Ross-On-Way an International Dance Festival, G8 Summit. I toured all over UK and Europe with BIMBA Dance Company, Nahid Siddiqui Dance Company, Chitralekha Dance Company and more allowing me opportunities to gain immense knowledge.
How did your institute Prerna with a Vision come about?
Travelling and performing all over the world was enriching but, somewhere deep inside I felt I was losing my identity and missing my country, its rich culture and the roots, I had several opportunities to settle abroad and make a name internationally but, I returned back and founded my own Institution ‘Prerna with a Vision’. Prerna literally means inspiration and it was incepted with this very thought by me about 27 years ago, aiming to enlighten and encourage younger generation to be able to learn preserve and nurture our age old cultural ethnicity and heritage. So I started training young minds coming to learn at my institute the technical, philosophical, theatrical and physiological aspects connected to Kathak dance so as they are enabled to understand the process and progression required to understand and adapt to the technical, movement and chorographical language of what I envisioned.
How has the journey been with team Prerna?
We have travelled extensively around India and abroad showcasing our various productions. Presenting our performance at several prestigious festivals like; Veerasat Festival in Lucknow, Vasantotsava Delhi, Sadhana Festival Delhi, Barabati Festival in Konarak, Maha Mritunjay Festival Banaras, ICCR Shows around the world including Azadi ki Amrit Mahotsav to Oman, Egypt and many more countries, NABC Texas and more. We have also collaborated and work with Ila Arun for “Indian Year in Canada” and performed with my troupe all over Canada and in India over a long period imbibing the Folk music with Kathak dance and now comes ‘Suryajyoti’, I believe my journey continues as even today I am an ardent learner.
What made you come up with Suryajyoti?
Honestly I thought of Suryajyoti almost 25 years back, but it is only now that I found time to bring it on stage. The power of Sun always attracted me, I was born on buddha purnima day so I was named after it ‘Luna’ and I loved gazing at the Moon. My curiosity was that why moon disappears at the daylight and Sun being considered a God providing source of life to all overpowers Moon my inquests became more, from there Suryajyoti took birth.
Surya depicted as riding a chariot harnessed by seven horses which might represent the seven colors of the invisible light or the seven chakras in the body and the seven days of the week, being the source of warmth and light, Sun has the ability to control the seasons and the power to withhold or grant the advent and blossoming for new life. Through this presentation I aimed to project the ever pervasive power of Sun his karma chakra and his ability to sublime to intensify the subtleness of Moon that though in existence throughout but gets over shadowed. Hence the source of all creations, Giver of wisdom and cosmic illumination. Over the years after curating innumerable choreographies Suryajyoti still remains the most loved just as the first born.
Why you chose Bhataynatyam dancer Supratim Talukder to play the central character, why not a Kathak dancer?
I have always tried to blend and imbibe different art forms together when it comes to my choreographies because I find it challenging yet enriching and fulfilling. Yes, in this show I chose Supratim to play Surya the narrator because his depth of understanding the Nritta, Nritya and Natya the 3 most fundamental element that defines all classical dances yet the technical variation or difference between both the art from merged together in this production is immense. What I envisioned could be identified clearly and depicted beautifully through Supratim’s dance. He is a powerful dancer with a humble heart that got well reflected on stage.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacific University USA, an honorary doctorate in performing arts from the National American University, He is a World Book Record holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honored with three National Excellence awards, one National Achievement Award and Dada Saheb Phalke award by the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]