I knew of Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali, and then I hear high praise for her from my mum. Imagine my delight when I hear she is going to be visiting the North of England.
Dr. Bali is a patron of Kala Sangam, an arts organisation based in Bradford, England. She is going to be speaking to us on the occassion of the 20th year celebrations of the organisation, on Saturday, the 19th of October 2013. Not knowing much about her, I set about to find out who this person is that Dr. Geetha Upadhyaya (Director, Kala Sangam) holds in such high regard. I knew she was almost like my Guru in age, and that she was an acclaimed actress. Never watched her movies, I might have seen the dance sequences from her movies, but I have no recollection of them. A cursory search threw up this article from an Indian newspaper. http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/tamil/Theres-no-slowing-down-for-Vyjayanthimala/2013/08/28/article1755083.ece The more of the article I read, the more interested I became in her. A Bharathanatyam-dancer actress who has played golf at the Indian National Golf Championships! She must be a smashing person!
I find what she says about Bollywood and Bharathanatyam in the interveiw interesting. She says that when she had to play a new character, there were no schools to teach her these, but her knowledge of Bharathanatyam helped her through all her new roles. And she goes on to say that she can’t say the same of Bollywood for her Bharathanatyam. What a pointed remark! I wonder what she is trying to convey. It’s really interesting to me, as people ask me, do you teach Bollywood as well? The right answer to this always puzzles me. The answer should be yes. But then do I know what part of Bharathanatyam is enclosed in Bollywood? The answer would be no. In which case, do I teach Bollywood? the answer should be no. However, as Vyjayanthimala says, she used Bharathanatyam to self-learn her acting skills, which in her days, included dancing, and lots of it! So Bharathanatyam contains Bollywood, but I don’t know it- I can’t recognise its precepts nor its route to transcendence.
Well, I suppose one can hazard a guess. And I shall. Take aharya abhinaya in Bollywood and its numerous desi versions on student stages across the UK. Its distracting, for a start. Aharya abhinaya in Bollywood is pretty, but it stops there. The proclivity towards a monoculture of front-facing hand-swinging adavus means that a Bollywood sequence couldnt last very long. The charm is lost if a Bollywood varnam were to be performed! The cloning of the monoculture adavus in Bollywood groups is in synonymy with the style.
So parents, and students, when you think dance, think Bharathanatyam, if you want to be versatile, skilful, exploratory and fulfilled.