Bharatnatyam is one of the most popular classical Indian dances, which is almost 2,000 years old. Bharatnatyam is considered the mother art of most of the other classical dances of India and inspires many art forms like sculpture, painting, and icon-making.
Nagpur girl, Deepshikha Das is taking this legacy ahead. Deepshikha is a passionate Bharatanatyam dancer and is youngest member of The West Bengal Dance Group Federation. She has performed at international festival like Uday Shankar International Dance Festival. She has also won awards at Dance & Music Festival, Nagpur, organized by South Central Zone Cultural Centre and also at the International Dance and Drama Festival, organized by Akhil Bhartiya Sanskrutik Sangh.
Reacho had some candid talk with this talented artist. Here are the excerpts from the interview -
When did you start learning Bharatanatyam?
I started my journey into dancing at the age of 3.5. My interest into dancing was clearly visible to my parents when I impeccably danced to the tunes of Bollywood songs. I henceforth began the auspicious journey conforming to the guru-shishya parampara under the guidance of Smt. Ratnam Janardhanan.
Any idols or influences in your life?
Guru Ratnam Janardhanan has always been a person I have looked up to. Ever since childhood, I have learned a lot from her as an ardent shishyaa. She will always be my idol for life.
Can you tell us more about Nritya Ratna Smt. Ratnam Janardhanan?
Guru Ratnam Janardhanan Nair is a well known Guru in India. She mastered the art of Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Guru Shri Kalamandalam Mannadiar and Guru Sadanam Lakshmikutty. She settled in Nagpur with her husband and laid the foundation of Pratibha Nritya Mandir, a center for Indian classical dance. She has been acclaimed by dance world with titles like ‘Nritya Ratna’ and ‘Kalaa Ratna’ among many others.
How did you get interested in Carnatic Vocal music?
I was already deepening my roots in Hindustani Sangit Paddhati, but Bharatanatyam demanded Carnatic Music. This is how, Guru Ratnam Janardhanan asked me to widen my musical knowledge and learn both the Classical Music styles of India. This is when she took me to Guru Ranjani Krishnakumar, another music virtuoso, having taken musical training from the Great D.K. Pattamal (a prominent Carnatic Music and famously know to be a part of the Female trinity of Carnatic Music).
Do you feel that you have evolved your own style?
‘Weaving Traditions with New Waves of Innovation’ has been my motto in my professional career in dance. But at the same time, I do not want to forget my roots and make changes to something which is immortal. We are responsible for keeping our traditional knowledge safe and pass it on to the next generation. I always seek my performances to be eye-pleasing to the audience. I always try to explain the meaning of my dance so that language is not a barrier. My forte is always to make correct and balanced use of technology like lights and sound, so that my audience soaks into my performance along with me.
Enlighten us about the West Bengal Dance Group Federation
The West Bengal Dance Group Federation is the premier dance body of West Bengal, of which all reputed artists of dance are part of. Being a life member of this Body is a matter of great repute and of course responsibility, because everyone in the field of dance look up to the member as an idol. I am the youngest Member of this body and was invited to be part of it when i was 10 years old. All the other members are veterans of the field of art and are aged 45+.
Which is your most memorable performance?
I have 2 to mention. The first being the performance at Uday Shankar International Dance Festival when I danced in front of the legendary contemporary dancer, film maker, actress and the daughter of the great Uday Shankar - Smt. Mamta Shankar ji. The second one was at The Salt Lake Music festival. This was such a high grade recital that all the legends of art and music were performing that night.
How do you see your role in the society as a dancer apart from being on stage?
Being an artiste in not only about being on stage. We play a key role in changing the mindset of the society. I am already knowingly and unknowingly a role model for many little girls who I teach today and who have seen me dancing. The generation today is getting far away from our cultures. It is becoming more materialistic and lack the golden knowledge of Indian cultures. Just to reduce this gap between the present generation and our cultures, through my dance I try to involve the youth today who is very active and filled with creative ideas. Bringing presentations like Draupadi and others, I try to enact mythological stories in a presentable manner. Social media has also been a tool to reach the society.
Did you ever think of leaving dancing? Or had any bad periods?
As any dancer in today’s society, I faced a lot of oppositions to take up dance as a career. Today’s society demands a professional degree which only satisfies egos of parents. You may see the name-plate of an Engineer/ Doctor/ CA/ Lawyer on every street you go, but an Artiste’s name is rarely found. This is because not everyone has been gifted by Maa Saraswati and it needs immense devotion to be an artist. The same happened to me when the choice of my career came into way. I fought all oppositions and stuck to my values and high regards for dance and music.
Here a video of Deepshikha’s performance. We wish her best luck and hope that more children will be motivated by her to follow and preserve this beautiful art of India!