We all have heard myriad stories about lord Ram, seen it in a form of drama or dance or even both, but at the recently held Ramotsav by Padma Vibhushan Dr Sonal Mansingh in the capital RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat said, “I have seen Many Ram Kathas, but this one by Sonal ji was totally magical.” That is exactly how even the audience felt at the Ramotsav, a two-day dance extravaganza that the celebrated dance guru and one of the cultural ambassador of India Dr Mansingh brought out, unfolding the life of lord Ram in her unique and distinctive style.
After hosting the event online due to the pandemic, she is back to live shows this year, on the theme of Ramotsav. “Dance is a part of life. I wish that dancers continue to bring joy to all,” said Dr Mansingh, founder of the Centre for Indian Classical Dances (CICD), which presented this show under their KalaYatra cultural festival. I caught up with my most admired artist and spoke to her about being back on stage after the pandemic and this is what she had to say:
So finally you are back to where you belong, the stage, how does it feel?
This comeback of physical festivals is like a renewal of life, performing arts and artists, especially dance and dancers, were one of the worst-hit sections by the Covid19 pandemic. I am thrilled to be back on stage with the house packed to its capacity. The response of the audience is all what an artist craves for and I am getting that. Bhagwati Ki Kripa Hai (it is the blessing of the Goddess).
Would you please tell me more about Ramotsav?
This was a two-days festival, for the inaugural day we had “Katha Siya-Ram Ki” where my team of dancers and musicians along with me brought the stories of Lord Rama alive through dance, abhinaya, music, drama and songs. All this combined in the Katha brought a distinctive spiritual essence to the theme. Such Kathas are eternal, they give me a scope to explore various dimensions of life. It is not just a simple story of Ram and Sita, it is a story in a much wider and bigger sense. The more we try to understand, the more we get pulled into it, that is mystical power of Lord Ram.
The second day of the festival showcased the evolutionary cycle from the Indic lore Dashavatara (the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu), presented by the repertory group of Kamakhya Kalapeeth, CIDC, under my direction. What followed was an extraordinary recital of Pibare Rama Rasam by classical dancer G Ratheesh Babu where he encapsulated three different episodes from Adhyatma Ramayana. The closing piece was a Kathakali performance based on the theme Ram Parashuram, which was brilliantly performed by the repertory under the direction of Thiruvattar Jagadeesan from The International Centre for Kathakali, Delhi.
How did you feel with the thunderous response of the audience?
People came from far and wide to see Ramotsav. The show was also live on our social media handles so we had a world audience as well. I feel the pandemic has changed the taste in people and the way they look at performances and shows. It is a new beautiful change that I have observed, there is a lot of freshness in people, I admire that freshness, people are hungry for more, they are so tired of being home that they are looking forward to enjoy culture with new dimensions.
What was the best part of the Ramotsav festival?
Oh, the best part of the festival, well, you will be amazed to know, for me, it was not the show, but it was something very personal, it was my surprise birthday celebration, which my team decided to do post the performance. I was completely emotional when they showered rose petals on me, all the lights were switched off and the audience lit diyas while I cut the cake, which had sitar and tabla on it. What more can I ask for? The love, the warmth was overwhelming, shows come and shows go but what remains is the love and affection of people which is poured out in this loving and caring fashion. For me this was the highlight of Ramotsav.
What are your views on International Dance day?
I believe all 365 days should be dance days. In the 24 hours of a day, everybody talks with their hands, eyes and gestures, is that not dance? Dance is a part of everyone’s life, our blood dances in our body, our breadth dances in our body and even our eyelids dance, all this is nothing but dance. Why dedicate one day to something that we do every moment of our life.
How do you manage to re-invent yourself every time you come on stage?
I challenge myself all the time. For me, the benchmark is my previous show and nothing else. And Yes, I never get comfortable in my position, I keep creating. Also I am tremendously self-critical, a show of mine that you might find absolutely perfect, I see a scope of improvement, that is what keeps me going.
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]