For Janani Murali, dance and Indian mythology take on a new meaning in her latest performance
Classical dancer Janani Murali dons many hats – entrepreneur, biologist, writer and mother. Daughter of renowned dancer Padma Murali, Janani sticks to classical dance boundaries in form, but looks for contemporary ideas in presentation. The beauty is she uses stories from Indian mythology to do this.
Trained in the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatya, the dancer is in the news for her choreographed solo piece, Savitri – Narratives of the Heart with which she has travelled across the country and abroad.
The young dancer talks to Metroplus abouther passion for dance and how a change in one’s thought process can bring in different perceptions to our age-old stories.
When did you start dancing?
I don’t remember when, but my brochure says I started off when I was five. I remember dancing forever. I learnt from my mother. I also worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a researcher and majored in biology and chemistry. Balancing dance and studies was not stressful at all. There was never a compulsion for me to do anything in my life. Dance has always been a constant. There was never a point where I had to decide to do this or that. So, I went on to do research and continued dancing. I gave up research when my daughter was born in 2011. I took a break from the nine-to-five job and decided to work from home. If you think working from home is a good thing, you have another thing coming.
You are working constantly at odd hours. It was getting stressful and that is when dance happened.
How did your solo piece ‘Savitri...’ come to be?
Last year, when I was trying to decide what next, I came across the story of Sati Savitri. The story was a revival, in a sense, since my mother had presented it years ago. I wanted to revive that production with a new perspective. It is very different from what she presented.
What prompted you to revive the story?
Some childhood stories stick in your head. This was one of them. There were many questions in my mind as to why and what about Savitri. I wanted to take it beyond just the story. Bharatanatya is a narrative of stories. I started thinking ‘why does it have to always be a lovelorn nayika and all about jeevatma and paramatma? People also question us as to why we always present the nayikapining for her beloved. Especially, with so much talk on feminism happening, it also gets you thinking, ‘what am I presenting to my audience?’
How did people react to the presentation?
These characters are metaphors, which are really lost to us. We have to tell the audience about them so they can relate to them. The story is about the metaphors of destiny, desire and love. You also wonder if there is something called divine love. The audience asks us these questions. And I am glad that they do, for they too have grown in varied ways. And their questioning helps us to look at new angles as artistes. Then a dance becomes a communication rather than just a performance. That is the beauty of Indian mythology and classical dance. It can remain a simple story or go beyond, depending on how you think. They may be ancient, but can be interpreted in many modern ways.
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