Recently the entire state of Maharashtra celebrated Dr Tushar Guha’s Nrityanjali’s 60th Foundation Day. Over 500 students from the age of 5 years to 76 years, performed Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Creative Dance, Rabindrik Dance, Folk Dances, Hindustani Sangeet, Light Songs and Rabindra Sangeet. Like all others I was there to witness the extravaganza created by Dr Guha and his team, I could not help but talk to the highly respected and loved personality Dr Guha on his magnificent journey. Excerpts from an interview:
Dr Tushar Guha
Tell me about your dancing journey, how it all started and with whom?
I have a long list to remember, I started dancing at the age of two and half years at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir in Kolkata under Guru Niren Sen. I began training in Vocal, Music and Dramatics by my nursery school Principal Mrs. Anima Roy. Soon moved to learning Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri and Kathakali under several teachers at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir. I was also taught various folk dance styles. I also took special training under Pt. Uday Shankar Ji in Kolkata and developed the knack of creative dance. Then Pt. Lachhu Maharaj Ji imparted lessons in Kathak dance to me when we moved to Bombay.
Later I also learnt Waltz, Foxtrot, Twist, Cha Cha Cha, Rock N Roll, Rumba and Samba. By the time I was twenty years of age my interest led me to travel across India, to learn authentic folk music and dance.
From the 1980’s received support from Shahir Sable Ji, Shri Daji Bhatavdekar Ji, Shri Arvind Pilgaonkar Ji and Shri Chandrakant Gokhale Ji, Damayanti Ji, Darshana Jhaveri Ji. By the 1990’s, began working in co-operation with Smt. Hima Devi, Smt. Sakuntala Narsmihan, Smt. Uma Rama Rao, Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, Protima Bedi, Jayadev Hattangadi.
What made you start Nrityanjali?
When I was eight years old, I set up a club with eight children of Batanagar Colony in Kolkata. We staged dance and plays in the lawn of our bungalow. I was always inspired by my parents – for their attitude of care for people. My father was the chief of Century Rayon. Highly revered, they would think of wellbeing of the 12000 employees of the company. In the feudal society of the 1960’s my parents had socialistic attitude – a rarity in those days, especially being from the highly privileged and affluent back ground.|
Inspiration from my parents, my learnings from Mrs. Anima Roy and my craving for art, instilled in me a deep desire to serve society and serve art. Nrityanjali was not by design, it evolved. On 19th July 1963, I gathered 200 children and parents of Century Rayon Colony and announced the formation of Cenray Children’s Club – I was fifteen years of age. Children’s Club changed to Junior Club to Youth Club to Nrityanjali in 1977, with the support from Smt. Sarala Birla and Shri Basant Kumar Birla. In 1983 got Nrityanjali registered as a public charitable trust. Funding was from my company Messrs Bidyut Art Printer (India) Pvt Ltd.
Nrityanjali completes 60 years, what has been the most memorable part of this journey?
The journey of 60 years is full of nostalgic memories – small and big. Still remember the first programme with children on 7th November 1964. Then the visit of Lalitadevi Shastri, the wife of the second Prime Minister of India as our Chief Guest in 1970. The first professional show 1972 on music of Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma. Doodarshan and IIT International History Congress – the first commercial professional show in 1980. ‘Reach for the Sun’ a theatre dance produced by Hima Kala Kendra and choreographed by me on poetry recited by Himadevi for 50 years of Indian Independence. Staging ‘Geet Ramayan’ in 2005, through dance two days for over 42000 audiences. Our International performances in Switzerland, Paris, Berlin, Australia, Canada, London, USA. Oh My! My list is endless. Our work with occupants of red light area, jail prisoners, LGBTQIA+ community, orphanages, women drivers, nurses, economically backward individuals, Old age homes, etc. My Book ‘Perceptions of Personality’ as Approved Reference Book by Directorate of Education, Government of Maharashtra in 1996. Receiving Doctorate from International University of Contemporary Studies – United States of America and I think I should end here (Laughs).
Six decades is a long time… What struggles did you face during this time?
I would rather say experiences – good, not so good and at times bad. But all these made me strong and made believe in myself. Yes, it pained, I faced humiliations, non-acceptance, non-co-operation, rejection but educative. There were times, when I would shed tears alone and absorb pain. My dance and music, my research was ridiculed, although the rejections were large in quantity, today acceptance is ten times in quality and now may be Nrityanjali is comfortably placed but struggle never ends, should not end.
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]