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Shastram attempts to preserve Indian dance forms

It’s her calling she says, to preserve the ancient dance forms of India.

Though a Sri Lankan by birth, Ghirija Jayarraj is from an Indian lineage.

She lived her early years up to the age of eight in Chennai. That’s where she was introduced to Bharatanatyam.

Even after moving to Australia, Jayarraj pursued her interest, and once she was experienced enough, she founded Shastram, an initiative that aims to preserve and pass on the knowledge of Indian dance forms through shows and performances.

This weekend, Shastram makes a debut in Bengaluru with a performance that is an amalgamation of tales about ancient dance forms.

It is presented through a combination of dances juxtaposed against films in the background. “This idea of a dance-film show is something
I had seen when I was 12 years old. I had presented a Bharatanatyam recital in Australia against the backdrop of a documentary on India,” remembers Jayarraj.

Now, as an established dancer, Jayarraj is attempting a similar feat with Shastram.

“The context explores how Indian classical dance forms have been passed on since the 16th century, and how they are likely to evolve by 2032. At the same time, we unravel the stories through the perspective of five dancers — Avijit Das (Kuchipudi), Shweta Krisha (Odissi), Shruthi KP (Mohini-yattam), Prateeksha Kashi (Kuchipudi) and myself (Bharatanatyam),” explains Jayarraj.

The films were shot in Kerala, Chennai, Chidambaram, Orissa and Bengaluru.

She believes every element in the show has a reason to be staged. “Films capture the imagination and take you to a different place, but nothing can beat the live energy of a performance,” she says.

Though there are patrons overseas for such experiments, Jayarraj insists it is important to connect with Indians, particularly youngsters.

“Certainly, we can make more than enough money overseas, but it’s critical that Indians preserve the art forms and own it too,” she says.

Tomorrow. At Chowdiah Memorial Hall, 5 pm. Tickets (Rs 500 upwards) on bookmyshow.com

Ayesha Tabassum

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