‘Warrior Women of Bharat’ pays rich tributes to women who fought Britishers
India and our women, are known for their mental, physical, social and spiritual powers. Our warrior women who fought the British Raj and paved a path for others to follow can never be forgotten. Padma Shri Prathibha Prahlad show Warrior Women of Bharat is a tribute to the legendary women who fought till their last breath and left behind a legacy that we all admire and get inspired by each time their name crops up. I spoke with the Prathibha Prahlad who conceptualised and creatively designed the Warrior Women of Bharat. Musically designed by extraordinary musicians, the Warrior Women of Bharat has been running houseful shows. Excerpts from the interview:
Warrior Women of Bharat, what a great thought. How did the theme come around?
I thought of this in March 2022, while negotiating the Pandemic and being isolation. After the theme occurred to me, I read extensively and chose seven key women warriors from different geographical regions of our country who fought the British in the battlefield. By the first week of April, when the lockdown was removed, we were ready with the dancers, styles, script and music and did the premiere show on the April, 29, 2022. Since them it has been on.
You chose iconic dancers to play various characters Why?
Yes, because the warrior women I chose are also iconic women, they were powerful and stood for something. I needed to have senior dancers perform these women to be able to bring out each one’s strength, resilience and conviction. I was the first to conceptualise and choreograph multi-style large productions in our country without taking away the essence of any style of dance and I believe I have a special talent for doing these kinds of productions.
So who all did you choose to play the various warrior women and in which dance styles?
Alekhya Punjala performed Rani Velu Nachiyar from Tamilnadu in Kuchipudi style, Gopika Verma performed Rani Kittur Chennamma from Karnataka in Mohiniattam style, Meera Das performed Rani Avanti Bai from Madhya Pradesh in Odissi style, Shovana Narayan performed Begum Hazrat Mahalfrom Awadh in Kathak style, Sharodi Saikia performed Kanakalata Barua of Assam in Sattriya style, Anita Ratnam performed Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal of the Indian National Army in Contemporary style and I performed Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi in Bharatanatyam style. Each dancer did an extraordinary job of portraying the finer nuances of the warrior women.
Out of all the characters of the warrior women who is your favourite and why?
That is an obvious answer – Jhansi ki Rani. One because, we have read about her life defying courage, her valour, her motivation and her patriotism from childhood. She was in history books, folk tales, fables and common parlance! The famous lines Khub Ladi Mardani Who Toh Jhansi Wali Rani Thi can never be forgotten. To bring her to life through my dance, was challenging for me and I love challenges. Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal was another challenge because she was a contemporary Indian woman who did multiple things in her lifetime, including being a doctor and an army Capt. I think Anita Ratnam truly brought out her character through her dance.
You have been doing many shows since it’s premier, the show has been widely appreciated and has a great message, how do you feel?
I feel awesome and validated when I hear those exuberant and overwhelming responses to warrior women presentation. Every time we have performed, we have had a spontaneous standing ovation, people have moved to tears, embracing our history, our nationalistic pride and the valour and strength of our women. The production also motivates and inspires women to draw from their inner strength and fight for what is their right. It has been over whelming to say the least.
How important were the right costumes, sound and light for this show?
Costumes were very important, not only did they need to look the character, look aesthetic but also had to represent the style of dance in an understated way. Sandhya Raman, our costume designer has put her heart and soul in designing and dressing all of us. Lights and effects were again extremely essential. Milind Srivastav is a very talented light designer and he does an exemplary job every time we go on stage. Credit needs to be given for music direction too. Many outstanding musicians were involved in the project and the musical score is very rich and varied. Danish Iqbal, the original script writer put us on track and to him goes the credit of original script and the pre and post show images by Innee Singh totally took the show to another level as good images make a lot difference in a good production.
This is one show that takes us back to our history and makes us realise how significant the sacrifices of these women were in shaping the freedom of our nation, the independence that we often take for granted.
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]