‘Classical art needs to be constantly reinvented’

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53, Aditi Mangaldas Kathak Dancer. Photo: Arun Sehrawat
53, Aditi Mangaldas Kathak Dancer. Photo: Arun Sehrawat

What one incident formed your artistic vision?
Growing up in a liberal family in Ahmedabad encouraged me to think out of the box. My guru, Kumudini Lakhiaji, always questioned set norms. Something written 5,000 years ago needn’t be followed to the letter. That put me on a path of exploration and doubt. With surety, one arrives at a full stop. That Ahmedabad is very different now.
How is Ahmedabad different now?
I’m not a fan of Modi. But politics aside, it has become polarised. There are some progressive pockets, such as the National Institute of Design. Back then progressiveness was spearheaded by certain families, such as the Sarabhais. There was a lot of push for women’s education and empowerment. There was liberalisation, but with a lot of responsibility. That grounding is not there today.
What are the thoughts you try to translate into your dance?
There are many. My dance has always been evolving. My work started with a lot of women’s issues, human issues. That was a form of catharsis. I moved on to more textured approach, then more tangible themes, But the disquiet and the horror of Delhi last December kept brewing. Now I’ve come full circle with Within, which explores the binaries of being human.
Why reinvent Kathak in a contemporary direction?
Classical art is constantly reinvented. It’s how art evolves. The shift of Kathak from temples to courts caused great upheaval. There was a lot of input from the then contemporary practitioners. With contemporary dance, based on Kathak, the dance is from the seed of Kathak, watered with contemporary sensibilities.
How well do cultural institutions support the arts?
Institutions such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi do provide support, but they need to see tradition as a living art form. Remember the moonlight, the firelight, the glistening marble of temples and courts. How does one invoke that in a black-box theatre?