The life of a dancer on screen
It was a rare evening at Alliance Francaise, when bharatanatyam dancer Alarmel Valli was seen both on and off screen. The Padma Bhushan awardee’s life has been made into a comprehensive film titled ‘Lasya Kavya — The World of Alarmel Valli’. Directed by well-known Bollywood film-maker Sankalp Meshram, the film was screened as part of Ashish Mohan Khokar’s series of programmes under the umbrella of ‘Dance DISCourse’.
The film, which was screened to a packed house of dancers and lovers of the art, delved into the life of Alarmel Valli from her childhood until present day, and was interspersed with performances by the artiste herself. Her childhood home in Madras formed the backdrop of the film, and it narrated the story of her devotion to the art and how it all started. There were clippings of some of her rarest performances, including her arangetram at the age of nine. She says in the film, “At that time, I never thought dance would become my life.”
The film also shows her receiving the Padma Bhushan award for excellence in the field of dance, from the then President APJ Abdul Kalam. The film, instead of following a chronological pattern in narrating her life, goes back and forth from present day Madras to her childhood and earlier performances. Some parts are shot in scenic locations that show Alarmel connecting with nature. Her counterparts from other forms of art have made an appearance in the film as well, and spoken about how Alarmel is not just a dancer but a poet and musician too.
The screening of the film was followed by a discussion with the dancer Alarmel and film-maker Sankalp Meshram, which was moderated by Ashish Khokar. They spoke about the making of the film, the idea and their individual experiences through the process.
“I did not want to shoot Alarmel in monumental places, not just because of the cliche, but because of the proportions too. The artiste loses size in comparison with the monument,” said Meshram, who directed and edited the film. One of the issues that came to light during the discussion is the gap that develops between the artiste and the camera each time he or she is being filmed. The floor at this point was thrown open to the audience for a few questions, which Alarmel answered with much patience and precision.