Have you ever imagined what if Goddess Kali, Saraswati, Durga and Laxmi were to descend on earth, how would they look? What costumes would they be wearing? What jewellery would they adorn? And who would they behave and dance? One person who has researched a lot about the same and implements it for her shows and performances is 27-year-old Rittick Das who when dressed in streevaisha (women look) goes with the name Ratri. When Ratri steps on the floor to perform, automatically heads bow down and hands start to fold to pray to the Goddess, that is divine power Ratri brings along in her detailed research of dance, music and costuming. I recently witnessed her celestial performance at Kinnar Mahotsav held in Pune organised by the celebrated activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi. Excerpts from the interview:
Which dance form training gets you to reach this level of perfection?
I started my dance training at Chandik Dance Academy where I learnt various styles of dances for over 10 years but my initial dance training has been into Bharatnatyam, I have also learnt Odissi dance for eight years. I feel to play Indian mythological characters classical dance training is extremely important, if you look at our ancient sculptures and paintings all the poses that gods and goddess are see in are found in classical art forms.
You do only mythological based show, do you?
It is not like that do only mythological shows, I do various types of show, which are in regular dance wear too but, mythological projects are more close to me, I feel they are more heart touching and people get lot more attracted to them. As classical dancers we depict the gods and goddesses but in our typical dance form costumes, very rarely does a dancer transforms their appearance to look exactly like the deity. India is highly spiritual land and our people are very religious, in our country we have so many festivals, occasions that we rejoice often and each of the celebration has a beautiful story behind it too which leaves us with a lessons for life, I only make an attempt to get that across to people through my shows and performances.
How long does it take for you to get ready for a show?
Honestly it all depends on the look that we are trying to create. Four hours minimum it takes to get the look ready along with costume, make up, hair and accessories. If the look has body painting and elaborate accessories and hair-do then it can take even longer. Like the Kali or the Lalita Tripura Sundari (which I performed today) takes about 6 hours to get into. But I don’t get tired dressing up, each time, I love each moment of it, I feel as an artist I am blessed to be getting this opportunity to be dressing like a goddess. I believe it is ‘Poorva Janam Sukrutham’ (Past Life’s Good deeds) that I have this golden chance to dress this way.
You have played many character which is your most favourite?
I played many characters like Kali, Saraswati, Durga, Lalita, Chitrangada, Laxmi, Narashimha, Mahisasurmardini and many more but, ten hand Maa Durga is one of my most favourite. To dress as Durga with ten hands was most demanding and then to dance and perform to the story of Durga and Mahishahsur was extremely difficult too, oh that video of mine went viral as well.
Tell me about your performance at the Kinnar Mahaotsav?
This event was the second edition of the Kinner Mahotsav held in Pune, especially organised by Laxmi Narayan Tripathy ji and Manish Jain sir this Mahotsav celebrates the Kinnar samaj in every possible way. My team and me were invited to perform at this festival and our presentation was about the ultimate goddess “Lalita Tripura Sundari.” As per our puranas she is one of most beautiful goddess, she has the power to create everything and can destroy everything too, she is known to have killed the most powerful asura “Bhandasur” along with many other devis like Mahavarahi and Rajmatangi. We presented this heavenly story to the audience at the Kinnar Mahaotsav.
Where do you get all the information of the mythology stories from?
We study the Puranas, we also consult experts, scholars and also learned priests from various temples to plan out stories and looks. I must admit now Wikipedia is also a great research platform for us but, yes many kind of information is on the internet so we have to be enormously mindful of what we choose to project.
How do you go about preparing for the show?
There are lots of member in my dance troupe, a lot of them are my friends and my student as well. First step is the detailed research work, after studying about the mystical characters, the real preparation begins. My designer starts to design the look first on papers, we plan the minute details of the fabric quality, design of the jewellery, finer nuances of the make-up, hair, props and the ornaments. Once I approve it all, my team and me start to source all the needed stuff and it is often that we make or stitch them with our own hands.
You have won many awards for doing such an impeccable work, isn’t it?
Sandip ji, God has been very kind to me, yes, the recognition journey started by winning several first positions at various youth festivals. Later, in 2014 I was felicitated with ‘State Music Academy Award’ by the West Bengal government also with the prestigious ‘Uday Shankar Dance Award’ in 2016 and then ‘Doverlane Music Award.’ There are many others like; Barsha Mangal dance award, Rasbenarash award from Banaras Hindu University, Bengal Sona Maa award, Guru Padma award at the most magnificent place Puri that I have been bestowed upon me. Honestly the awards don’t matter to me, each day I dress in a Goddess roop I feel I am the chosen one, a blessed soul, it is a feeling that I just cannot explain in words.
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]