Candid shots of a dancer's odyssey

Candid shots of a dancer's odyssey

On the occasion of Saraswati Puja, a young girl observes the shishyas seeking blessings of their guru and in return they get adorned by tilak.

The girl unable to hold herself goes up to danseuse Geeta Chandran to ask her why the latter hasn’t applied tilak on her. In the process, the young one points at her forehead, right in the centre of her eyes and photographer Rakesh Sahai captures the moment to make it etched forever in history.

Displayed as part of the exhibition ‘In the Click of a Movement’, the photograph draws instant attention of Metrolife for its ability to speak volumes in just one frame. Just like the others, which together define the four-decade dance odyssey of Chandran! 

“I would have been in school when she did her Arangetram. It is amazing to see how she has completed four decades performing Bharatanatyam,” says Sahai explaining the reasons that compelled him to showcase his ‘dance photography’ skills even though he has established credentials as a wildlife photographer.

“Anybody can take a picture. Photography is not rocket science,” says this ex-photojournalist crediting his previous profession for teaching him the skills to click in a fraction of a second.

“Look at the reflection of light that is falling on her face as she is getting dressed in her green room. I shot this with a 50mm lens,” he says pointing to a candid photo of the artiste that is placed first among all. 

This follows a series of photographs of Chandran shot during the rehearsals in her studio and varied performances in different parts of the country. “I have more than 10,000 photographs of Geeta. Even she doesn’t know about it,” Sahai says light-heartedly, sharing how difficult it was for him to select just few for display. 

“The first priority for me was to ensure that the subject and photographer are in perfect coordination. I frequented her studio and gradually the dancers became comfortable with my presence.”

One can believe this by seeing the picture where Chandran provides taal with her hands as her students practise a piece. The mirror image of the students captured in the vibrant frame makes the picture endearing.

Infact, another photo of a rehearsal in the same studio is quite different since the ace dancer is depicted in the centre as her shishyas dance around her. Sahai chooses to capture this in motion.  

“Geeta has spirituality in her,” says Sahai as he shows Metrolife the dancer’s photos that he captured during Ananya dance festival which takes place at Purana Quila every year.

“This is one of my early pictures. When I could catch the light from the background and could do justice to both the monument and the dancer present in one frame, I thought I can do creative photography,” he jests. Undoubtedly, his skill to capture the various forms of the dancer is superlative.  

Especially, in the images taken during the various editions of Khajuraho Festival of Dance where the dancer looks like a part of the Khajuraho Temple! 

Chandran’s perfect mudras are also visible in one of these where she strikes a pose to match the dome-structure of the monument behind her. In reference to another stunning solo black and white photo, Sahai says, “I purposely chose to keep it without colour in order to show the resemblance between the statues in the temple and Geeta.” 

The depth of these photographs amazes all visitors, since the lensman avoids displaying his work behind glass frames. Sahai even omits giving captions to his work commenting: “I want to display, not describe!” The exhibition is on at India Habitat Centre’s lobby till September 30.

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