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     Sharmila Mukherjee connects women and nature in her new Odissi piece

    in her latest production, Odissi danseuse Sharmila Mukherjee draws a parallel between a woman and nature. Titled Sookshma, it will be staged at the fourth edition of Pravaha dance festival, instituted in remembrance of her guru of 20 years, Kelucharan Mohapatra.

    Adapted from the Kannada folk lore A Flowering Tree: A woman’s tale by poet AK Ramanujan, the Odissi ballet follows the life of a village woman, who can transform into a flowering tree. “It’s the story of exploitation of a woman, about how she keeps giving something or the other to her family, husband, and in-laws, and what happens to her at the end. While we have based our ballet on Ramanujan’s work, we have added a twist at the end,” says Mukherjee, who’s choreographed and directed the piece.
    Then there’s the link with the environment. The founder of city-based Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance, who will make a short appearance in this ballet along side her 15 students, explains, “We have highlighted the similarity between a woman and a tree through the lyrics. Nature is as selfless as a woman; it keeps blossoming, giving us so much, and we keep destroying it.”
    Mukherjee stumbled upon the folklore a year ago, and felt it befit an Odissi performance. “The text has elements of nature, pathos, and joy. Blending a Kannada story and its sentiments, with an eastern dance form such as Odissi is unusual, but my students and I worked on it for months,” says the danseuse. Sookshma will feature the refined torso movements made famous by her guru, tribhangi chowk, abhinaya, and a new pallavi.
    Since the dance is a tribute to her guru, we asked Mukherjee to share her best memory of him. “He was a hardtask master, and would make us practice till 2 am. He would stress on the fact that we must do our own choreography, and give back to the dance. He would say, ‘You can’t keep dancing only on my choreography’,” she says.

    April 16. Tickets(`200 and `300) at the venue. At ADA Rangamandira, JC Road. 6.30 pm. Details: 9008141605

    —Barkha Kumari

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