Sharmila Mukherjee gives Indian touch to the iconic Russian ballet ‘Swan Lake’

 Sharmila Mukherjee gives Indian touch to the iconic Russian ballet ‘Swan Lake’

The Russian Swan Lake is a very renowned ballet, which is performed by Ballet dancers all over the world, in fact, Swan Lake is a study material for ballet dancer too. Each character in the dance drama is iconic and artists who have played the role have left their mark in our hearts forever. Swan Lake was originally choreographed by Julius Reisinger, with unforgettable music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, which released way back in 1877, Swan Lake has withstood the test of time, igniting curiosity in dancers, storytellers and performers, over the centuries.

Bangalore based Odissi exponent, choreographer and dance Guru Sharmila Mukherjee, a disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and founder and artistic director of Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance, which was established in 2004 came up with the Indian version of the iconic dance ballet title ‘ Hansika, it was easy to understand why it is so in Hindi. The tragic tale of two lovers separated by a curse will never become outmoded, packed as it is with a range of emotions from love and jealousy to anger and vengeance, not to mention the age-old tussle between good and evil. These emotional elements and the skill of the performance creators allowed for a smooth transfer of the Eastern European tale to the Indian classical dance context. I spoke with the recipient of the Mahari Award Sharmila and this is what she had to say about her pulchritudinous show Hansika excerpts from the interview:

How did the concept of Hansika come around?
From a very young age I was captivated with the western classical dance form Ballet. Hansika came about due to the same fascination. I love Ballet for its authenticity and its aesthetics it brings on the floor. As a child I would read pictorial books about the legendary Queen of Ballet Anna Pavlova and her life on stage and backstage too. In many ways she inspired me to take up dance, since childhood, I wanted to be a dancer. I remember seeing the pictures of Swan Lake and was spellbound. I found the concept extremely interesting and as I matured as an artist, I thought it would be lovely resent the Swan Lake in the Indian dance styles. I believe our classical dance Odissi blends with ballet in a lot of ways. So, I finally decided to make my childhood dream a reality.


How did you adapt the Swan Lake to become Hansika?
Hansika is taken from the original with a bit of Indianness added to it. Hansika is about two sisters Odette and Odile. The proud sister Odile (the sorceress) is humiliated by Odette in a dance sequence and takes her vengeance by cursing her and her companions to become swans by day and women by night, when they were playing by the river. Only true love can break the curse. This is taken from the original story though there are many versions. Of course, Hansika is presented in Odissi dance style and Indian style contemporary manner too. I felt to explain the story and to be accepted by the Indian taste a blend would enormously well.

It is a huge production, isn’t it?
Oh yes! it was a mage production, and could never have managed to pull it off alone. I have lots of people who helped me put it all together. I wish to thank Praveen D Rao for the original music score and direction, my team of musicians; Bijay Barik on the pakhawaj, Varijashree V on flute and vocals, Gurumurthy Vaidya on tabla, and Jyotsna on violin. And all those who helped to bring this production together like Suresh BV photographer and video by Shruthi N for the promotional publicity before our premiere show, costume designer Aloka and script by Suranjana, my student. I am especially grateful to Rotary Club of Bangalore and C Krishniah Chetty for sponsoring the premiere. And of course, all my dancers who tirelessly worked to make my childhood dream come true.

Putting a show of such production value must have had its difficult time?
The most difficult part was getting such a large cast together. Each show there are some changes, there are new dancers as some leave or unable to perform and we need to start from scratch, to train such a large ensemble and try to synchronise their movements and of course the funding is another challenge. It is also a challenge to make some dancers understand the swan movements, as they are closer to ballet and tend to look clumsy if they are not done properly through Indian dance form. But like it is said All is well that ends well’. So no complains at all, inspite of all problems, each show of Hansika has been very well received. We have performed over 4 shows inn Bangalore and one in Delhi, soon we will be in Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai and talks are on for overseas collaborative work too. I never stop dreaming, as the saying goes “When you stop dreaming, you die”.

I know, you can never sit at one place, now that Hansika is on a roll, what next?
I am now into done another production with Tagore’s Notir Pujo The Dancer’s Worship) the story is completely different from that of Hansika. It is with the backdrop of the kingdom of Magadha and the spread of Buddhism and the spiritual transformation of the court dancer who becomes a follower of Lord Buddha. I love to challenge my own-self, it keeps me going.

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]


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