'I am inspired by the newer lot'

As part of her research work on traditional raas of Brindaban, Kathak exponent Uma Sharma often visited the renowned town located in Uttar Pradesh back in late 1960s and early 1970s. There, she studied the technique of the dance drama called raas leela under the guidance of Late Pt Ladli Saran Sharma, a patron of this particular style.

 Later, Sharma brought the Brindaban Raas Leela troupe to perform in Delhi every year till 1984 until she evolved a blend of Kathak and raas leela for her annual presentation of Maharaas Leela at the Sharadotsav festival on the occasion of Sharad Purnima (onset of winter).

“The inspiration behind this venture was given to me by late Kamladevi Chattopadhyaya who urged me to take up this worthy cause before the art form became extinct. At that time, raas leela groups of Brindaban used to make their presentations mostly in ‘filmy’ style both in respect of music and costumes which wasn’t right,” Sharma tells Metrolife on the sidelines of her and her troupe’s performance of Maharaas Leela recently held as part of HCL Concert Series at Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon.

Performing to the tunes of her troupe comprising of Mubarak Khan on tabla, Yograj Panwar and Pt Jwala Prasad on vocals, Khalid Mustafa on sitar, Ashok Parihar on pakhawaj, Madho Prasad on bortaal, Vinay Prasanna on flute and Tarun Parihar on tabla tarang, she enacted the 10th chapter or Dashma Skandh from Shrimad Bhagwat or Hindu spiritual text based on incarnation of lord Vishnu. 

Sharma says, “It is the depiction of a playful full moon night where the gopis of Brindaban, upon hearing the sound of Krishna’s flute, sneak away from their households and families to the forest to dance with Krishna throughout the night, also called the ‘dance of divine love’ and Krishna is believed to have stretched the length of the night.”

Sharma runs her own school of music and dance named Bhartiya Sangeet Sadan (Uma Sharma School of Dance and Music) which has been in existence since 1976 and has been training  young dancers including foreigners from West Asia, Europe and America.

Sharma believes that for an artiste, “age is just a number” and says that she is “inspired” by the newer lot of performers. “I try to keep all my performances as traditional as possible, though things are changing in terms of genres. I am inspired by the newer lot who are enthusiastic to learn, are obedient to follow and ready to work hard and concentrate which is of utmost importance,” says Sharma.

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