There are some actresses who, when they appear on the silver screen, illuminate it with their beauty and acting skills, and leave an everlasting mark on the audiences. One such supremely talented and stunning dancer-actress is Shanthi Priya. After a break of almost a decade, she is back to mesmerise us with her ethereal splendor. The actress will soon be seen in Dharavi Banks with Suniel Shetty and Viveck Oberoi. She is also playing the protagonist in the film based on the life of Sarojini Naidu. Excerpts from an interview:
When did your Kuchipudi dance training begin and how has been the journey?
My journey started young from the age of 6. It wasn’t easy for a child waking up at 4:30 in the morning for class at 5:30. No child is really ready for that kind of training and lifestyle, but it soon became a part of my life and my love for Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam just grew with me every year.
However, where I am today would not have been possible without Shri Ambikeshwara Nritya Niketan & SP Anand who made sure I practised my dances every day to my utmost capability and effort that I had within me. This hard work and desire to get better every day helped me perform at various cultural festivals through which I received acclaim as on upcoming prodigy along with my elder sister Bhanu Priya who has been my dance partner all my life.
How difficult was it to adapt to Bollywood after classical dance training?
To be very honest, it was not difficult at all. Dance is an art of expression and so is acting. Dance helped me express my happiness, my angst, my joy, and my despair through movement within my feet and on my face. Dance helped me attain tons of focus, vigour, discipline which was very essential in living the life of an actor. To me my dance was more helpful in learning ho0w to express myself than any school of acting can ever be, but that’s just my opinion.
What dance form are you practicing nowadays and why?
Classical has always been my forte, but as I grew up other dance forms too started to fascinate me. I wanted to learn and practice all of those. I thought it would do me much good than harm, so I started learning Latin American, Standard Ballroom Dance as also the Cuban Dance. I think it is a myth that classical dances are tougher than others.
Recently I performed the English Waltz for the World Dance Day celebration dressed in a Rohit Verma’s Ball Gown, it made me fall in love with the new art of international dances.
After long gap, I have also started my Bharatanatyam riyaaz, it was a huge struggle for me to find a guru in Mumbai, after a lot of back and forth with many dance teachers, I finally met Nilesh Singha. I was so happy that I ran for my first class with coconut and bananas for an auspicious start. Depending on my shooting schedule I will now be starting my preparations for solo dance items too. I am looking forward to being on the classical stage again.
Who has been your favourite choreographer from the films?
My favourite was Mugur Sundar, the legendary Choreographer, and the father of one of the greatest dancers of our generation Prabhu Deva. He was the one who really helped me see a side to dancing where different dance forms could be fused together. The fact that you could possibly make it even more beautiful than it already is. Another favourite is iconic Saroj Khan – for her elegance and dedication to the craft from who constantly oozed grace and charm in expression and movement.
Any choreographer who gave you a tough time?
Chinni Prakash, one of my very early and senior choreographers. But with all due respect I was really young and new which sometimes becomes a matter of friction between a veteran. However, who says art is sometimes not made in chaos.
We keep reading about you being back on screen with a bang, but what are your future plans regarding your dance?
Currently I only want to focus on getting better in the new dance forms I am learning, and I want to try and fuse these dance forms and the ones I spent my childhood learning and make them my own. This is something that is extremely dear to me and I am sure there will come a day when I can showcase this to the world as well.
I recently did a Bharatanatyam shoot with photographer and director Ashutosh Arya and had an amazing time, all my memories of performing on stage before entering films came alive.
Also, to be very honest, and this might not come as a surprise only to a few, I’ve always believed that there might come a day when I might have to draw the curtain on my acting career, but I can say this without hesitation that till my body and soul allows me to dance, these feet will continue to tap on beat and rhythm.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacifica 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]