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`Change is inevitable'

The Page 3 phenomenon has blurred our judgment, observes dancer Madhavi Mudgal

— Photo: R. Gajendran



Madhavi Mudgal: `I don't think it's important to seek publicity if you're doing a sincere job.' — Photo: R. Gajendran

IN A day and age when there's much commercialisation of the arts, it is rare and refreshing to see a world-renowned artiste who is not only unassuming but wholly committed to her art form. That makes Padma Shri Madhavi Mudgal a very unique performer and guru. One of the foremost disciples of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and a renowned Odissi dancer, her elegant and subtle style is unique, yet blends well with the traditional form that she practises. Mudgal, who is based in Delhi, comes from a family of artistes and has played a pivotal role in popularising Odissi across the world. Excerpts from an interview when she came here last week:

Tell us about your early life. When and how did dance happen?

Well... dance didn't have to happen, it was always there! I come from a family of artistes, so it was a natural happening. My father, Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya, founded the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya in 1939 at a time when performing arts were not very prevalent in the North. I started dancing fairly early in life. It was in the early '70s that I met Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and began my tutelage under him.

From then to now, how has the journey as a dancer been?

When I started dancing, Odissi was not as structured. There was no real repertoire back then. My generation of dancers was lucky because Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and several other gurus were creating a structure and a repertoire just then. I would say that Odissi is what it is today because of the foundation that was laid by the great artistes then.

You've seen several generations of dancers. How much do you think the scenario has changed over the years?

Change is inevitable and good too, but is important in which direction it takes place. I see that there is a lot less stylisation and dance is becoming more close to reality, or what we call Lokadharmi. The subtlety has gotten lost somewhere. It is unfortunate that audiences are being spoon-fed. They are no longer discriminating and I would say that this is because the quality of dancers has gone down. Nowadays, you can get your name published in Page 3 and get an audience. Dance is not in a great shape now.

Talking about Page 3, you are quite unlike a typical artiste who seeks attention. You choose to stay away from the limelight unless necessary. What do you think of the Page 3 phenomenon?

I don't consciously choose not to be there but at the same time I have no problem when I get featured for my dance. I don't think it's important to seek publicity if you're doing a sincere job. It's unfortunate that out of insecurity a lot of artistes seek publicity very actively. It's sad because audiences cannot discriminate any longer. If an artist is featured in page 3, he gets audiences. What is most important for the arts is a discriminating audience, only then can classical forms flourish.

SONIRA GULHATI

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