The graceful hand movements from synchronized feet tapping, swift pirouettes to the melodious ‘taal’or rhythm , Indian Classical dance form Kathak :continues to preserve its glory . Sumedha Bhattacharya, a passionate Gen-y Performing Artist from India continues this storytelling traditional art form dedicated herself completely towards taking this art form , leaving aside the field of Engineering. . Jaipur Explore’ Editor in Chief ‘Runa Sayeed’ was delighted to speak to her.
Runa : Sumedha thank you for giving some time for our team. Will you give a short introduction about yourself?
Sumedha: Thank you JE team for your time too. I was born in a Bengali family in the town of Berhampore in West Bengal. I am the only child of my parents. My mother Rituparna Bhattacharya is a Dancer herself , and father a Bank Officer. I consider them to be my best supporters since childhood ,which I feel is the foundation to build any interest be it art, science etc. I started learning Kathak from My Guru Dr Shashi Sankhla for 10 years and later continued – learning under Guru Saswati Sen for 8 years under the overall guidance of the Maestro Pt Birju Maharajji. Apart from my cultural pursuits , I went to MGD school-Jaipur , and I have graduated in Electronics Engineering from Jaipur itself ,my second ‘home’ My horizon changed after I was selected as an Young India Fellow from Ashoka University which gave me a platform to explore the world in a new perspective ,see my dance form through perspectives of different disciplines
Runa: What exactly was the reason which encouraged you to a career in dance?
Sumedha: It all started when I saw my mother taking classes in Noida at her own dance school “Ta Dhi Na”. She was my first inspiration. My mother tells I was two and half years old when I showed interest in Dance . I guess it was ‘in the blood’ then? (She laughs).Over the years, because of my father’s transferrable job, we left Noida and went to Jaipur. That’s where I got introduced to my Gurus Dr Shashi Sankhla and Reema Goyal who played an integral part in the formative years of Kathak. I started giving public performances since then because of my mother’s constant encouragement and my Gurus.
Runa: Who are your gurus who trained you and helped you to come out with flying colours in dance world?
Sumedha: Initially I was trained by Guru Reema Goyal subsequently by her mother Dr. Shashi Sankhla based on Jaipur Gharana of kathak. Later Guru Saswati Sen under the overall guidance of the Maestro Pt Birju Maharajji . I believe in versatility. And that’s why I was more interested in learning different schools of thought of the same dance genre. I am indebted to all my Gurus who have instilled in me a courage to learn, to create and to explore.
Runa: Where do you get your strength from?
Sumedha: From my gurus and also got strength from my Mother who even now is my best critic.
Runa: What are the ingredients to make a good performer?
Sumedha: One who can feel and live the performance is a true performer.
Runa: How do you create new concepts in traditional mould?
Sumedha: I feel tradition is constantly changing because we as people are changing, the world is changing. And this space: “the change” is the tradition. That’s where I create new concepts in a traditional space. For example, I along with my colleagues at Ashoka University had created a choreography concept based on LGBT rights. That’s how tradition is moulded in new and progressive contexts.
Runa: What do you think on experiments in Kathak?
Sumedha: Experimenting in any field is a must. But with correct knowledge and vocabulary of that field. Currently staying in Norway I am an Erasmus Scholar with my colleagues from different parts of the world. I will have to find a common ground where we all showcase our dance forms. What binds us together is the ‘rhythm’ which finally lead you to experimental choreographies.
Runa: What are your future plans and goals?
Sumedha:. In the words of Leo Tolstoy “Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement; art is great matter”. I want to an active contributor to the field of art and culture . Frankly speaking, I thought I will be an Engineer when I was in 12th Std. But here I am studying on an Erasmus Masters Scholarship to study Dance Knowledge, Practice and Heritage in Norway, Hungary, France and London. I don’t know what the future holds for me ,and to narrow down into goals, I believe is curbing possibilities. Hence I believe in the present, I believe to learn from anything and everything and apply to what I know.
Runa: Sumedha is well known Kathak dancer, Sumedha is a photgrapher, Sumedha is a Painter, Sumedha is an Artist and a good cook..
Sumedha: (She laughs) Good Cook? My mother is an excellent cook, anybody will vouch, but I am learning from Ma and very soon I’ll cook as well as she can, I promise. You are screwed if you can’t cook especially when you are living out of your country.
Yes, I love Photography and Painting. I am an active member of the Jaipur Photographers’ Club. I take my camera almost everywhere with me. People and stories inspire me. No wonder I also love travelling.