Padma Shri recipient Shovana Narayan has seen varied hues of Delhi ever since she made it a home in 1962. The cultural landscape of the capital was different from what it is today. “Dance scene in those days epitomised what India was seeking. At that point of time, all classical dances were trying to establish their identity in the minds of the people, as the form was threatened by the emergence of new dance forms,” recollects Narayan.
According to Narayan, there used to be night long conferences during those years. “There was a lot of enthusiasm then. Now, those night conferences are not there anymore,” she laments. “Even the duration of performances has reduced. Earlier if a person didn’t dance or sing for two-and-half-hours to three hours we would wonder what sort of a performance was that?”
However, such performances have now been reduced to a limited time period and Narayan has got accustomed to changing times. “Delhi is coming to its own. Everybody has come, accepted the performances as if they were always a part of its milieu. But people are now in a hurry. So those performances have reduced to one-and half hours or even 15 minutes,” Narayan tells Metrolife. “It’s time to pack up at nine or ten at night, unlike earlier times,” she says light-heartedly.Narayan will be performing at the Lalit Arpan Festival that will begin on August 26.
The danseuse will repeat a performance she had done two decades earlier. “‘Chiragh-e-Dair- Ghalib’s Ode to Benaras’ is penned by Mirza Ghalib. It was written in Persian, but the Urdu translation was done by Ali Sardar Jafri and he introduced me to it,” she tells Metrolife.Interestingly, she had done this piece in Kamani Auditorium with singer Vani Jayaram and this time too she would be performing at this popular performing centre. “Kathak for me means life. As the name says, it is katha or story. Kathakars or storytellers are people who narrate stories largely based on episodes from epics, myths and legends,” she says.
“It is more than 2,500 years tradition with an inscription from the early Maurya period. Mime and gestures were perhaps added later on to make the recitation more effective. This is how a simple form of expressional dance evolved. And for me, it encompasses every aspect including the devotional aspect. It is a union with the unknown,” she tells Metrolife with a gleaming smile.Narayan has redefined the dance form and is known for her experimental style. She is often considered a living legend in the field of performing arts.
“It is a constant search with viyog and sayog (absence and presence). All rasas form a part of that combination. Kathak is like the flowing river. It is the river of continuity.
It is the river of change,” she says.