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Art and the heart of the matter

ANJANA RAJAN meets Kathak dancer Sadanand Biswas, who is determined to make a mark as a soloist and feels art helps unreel the stories within... .



Sadanand Biswas...biding his time. Photo: R.V. Moorthy.

ATHOUGH A cursory glance at our television programmes might suggest the country's young people are content to live life like clones of the West, there are enough of them seriously engaged in learning classical dance and music to make the prospect of unemployment even in these rarely chosen professions a topic of some concern. Yet they persevere, with stars in their eyes and courage in their hearts. One such is Sadanand Biswas, Kathak dancer, a disciple of Guru Rajendra Gangani of the Kathak Kendra.

Sadanand who was born in Durgapur, West Bengal, says that everyone in his State learns some art or the other. "Often it is the parents who are more keen and inspire their children, saying, when foreigners come all the way here to learn, why can't you?"

In his case, they didn't need to push hard, as Sadanand exhibited an interest in dance from an early age and began learning Kathak from Guru Nirmal Nag and Rabindra Nritya from Kartik Saha. Later he moved to Delhi where he joined the Kathak Kendra and has now completed his Post Diploma course.

Living in the Kathak Kendra hostel in his early years in Delhi and then obliged to find outside accommodation, Sadanand compares living and learning in the Capital with being in his native region. "Durgapur is a small town and Delhi is after all the Capital. In Bengal it is difficult to get a platform. Getting a Government grant or sponsorship for a programme is very rare. Still, as Bengalis we want to continue learning, as it is so important for us. Here, we stay on rent and study. If we were to get better facilities, we could study better. It's difficult to maintain yourself alone. When you have to worry about cooking, marketing and everything, you can't be totally involved with your art," he says, citing the example of the National School of Drama that shares a campus with the Kathak Kendra. "Those students turn out like jewels," he says, admiring not only their three-year hostel facilities but also their syllabus that includes all aspects of theatre, including acting, make-up, lighting, etc.

It's not as if Sadanand is complaining though. Determined to make his mark, he is busy capitalising on his strengths. "Art is something with which to express oneself," he ruminates. "Apni man ki katha bataane ke liye hota hai. I love abhinaya in Kathak, but every aspect has its own beauty and it should be presented in totality. There should not be a shortfall in any feature."

The pain of separation made more piquant by the lover not giving any warning of going away is an emotion he is interested in exploring, like the situation Yashodhara finds herself in after the departure of Prince Siddharth from the palace in the story of the Gautam Buddha. Sadanand is particularly interested in poetry and literature, because verbal language is comprehensible to an ordinary audience that may not be versed in the technical nuances of Kathak.

Performing in choreographic productions of the Kathak Kendra has helped Sadanand acquire stage experience and observe the tenets of choreography. However, he points out, "Group dancer ban kar to rehna nahin hai".

Through these emphatic words rings the determination of today's pragmatic youngsters.

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