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Strength in numbers

Mukti’s articulation of the creative process and the essence of the dance style with open-mindedness connects her to cultures and artistes across the globe.

 Mukti Shri

For Mukti Shri, the kathak dancer and teacher now based in Hyderabad, “dance is my worship. Devotees offer something they like to their deity, and my dance is my offering to God.”

Mukti Shri has been praised for her elegance and grace; the precision and clarity in the rhythm of her footwork, and her impressive abhinaya with eloquently communicative face and hands. 

Mukti’s articulation of the creative process and the essence of the dance style with open-mindedness connects her to cultures and artistes across the globe. She is all for preserving the chaste classicism of kathak.

“However, as artistes we should also be broad-minded and open to collaborations with other forms of art without compromising the basic classicism of our own form,” she believes.

Mukti has given around 50 performances in India and several in different venues across the world.

Around the world

In London, where she lived and taught for over a decade, she has performed at venues like the prestigious Barbican Centre, South Bank Centre, and for the UK Kathak Festival, and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 

Among her well-known collaborations are those with the renowned percussionist Trilok Gurtu, who is known as much for his Indian classical music (tabla) as his trailblazing experiments with jazz fusion, world music and other genres.

She has performed with him at the International Paleo Festival, Nyon, Switzerland; World Percussion Festival, Istanbul, Turkey; Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Vasantotsav, Pune, India. “It was very challenging performing with him as he does a lot of onstage improvisation and he is creative. Keeping pace with him and understanding the aesthetics were tough but satisfying as an artiste.”

Mukti’s journey in kathak began at the age of six when she began learning dance from Guru Shri Jafar Mulla in Pune.  “I have been born and brought up in Pune and my entire dance training happened there.”  

Later, she underwent a rigorous period of training for nearly 15 years from Shama Bhate. She says of this guru: “Shama Tai was completely dedicated to her art and gave every day of her life to it. She would never miss a teaching session — family functions, festivals, illness — nothing would come in the way. I continue to take lessons from her,” says Mukti.  

Mukti later came under the tutelage of Taalyogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar, a Padma Shri awardee, for Laya Shastra, the science of rhythm.  Is this because kathak features complex rhythmic patterns? “Yes. In fact, my guru Shama Tai also studied the same subject under him. We too would observe and learn from his teaching sessions to my guru.”

Also a teacher

Around 2002, she began teaching at the Indian Activity Centre, Bangkok, an initiative supported by the Indian Embassy, Thailand. She also  occasionally performed in the city. In 2003, she married Srinivas Rao Mukku and in 2006, the couple moved to the UK. “I began teaching kathak to students from my own home.” Mukti returned with her family to India in 2017, and has begun teaching kathak and occasionally performing, too. She believes that Indian traditional or classical dances are rich in scope and depth. “One should maintain the purity and classicism. Experiments are good, but one should tread carefully and not do it merely for the sake of an experiment. One must be prepared for hard work. Long years of hard work  and dedication are the only way to master any of our classical dances.”

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