Jayanta - Pranaame, the first Assamese dancing duo
| 11 Apr 2017
| NOP Bureau National

Jayanta - Pranaame, the first Assamese dancing duo

Exclusive Interview with Pranaame Bhagawati by Onkareshwar Pandey

Pranaame Bhagawati is a versatile artiste from northeast India. She is a danseuse, choreographer, writer, actress and a cultural activist. Besides being proficient in Kathak and Sattriya dances, Pranaame Bhagawati is recognised for her dynamic approach towards presenting and choreographing Indian dance arts. She founded AMRAPALI (Society for ARTS) for preaching of arts, culture and heritage and propagate creative thoughts for artistic sustainability through organizing events like Chimera, Culture Colloquium, Amrapali International Arts Conclave, etc. Her motto is to spread artistic interest and its possibilities amidst children, amateurs as well as professionals. Born and brought up in Guwahati (Assam) Pranaame alongwith her dancer-choreographer husband Jayanta Bhagawati have presented their artistic skills in several recognised festivals of INDIAN COUNCIL FOR CULTURAL RELATIONS (ICCR), SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI, DIRECTORATE of CULTURAL AFFAIRS (Govt. of India), INDIAN EMBASSIES abroad, NGO, Corporates and institutions whilst rendering choreographies and performances for field events to stage performances and videos choreographies. Jayanta Bhagawati and Pranaame Bhagawati, the first Assamese dancing duo and internationally acclaimed Indian classical dancers and choreographers need no introduction for their dancing credibility in different parts of the world. They have made Assam and the northeast proud by delivering several revered productions like Bihu Bareboroniya, Kaziranga, Brahmaputra, Shiv Tandav, The Hunt, etc. at the national and international level. And now days, the couple is accompanied by their 7 years old daughter Wamiel Pranaame Kashyap in their presentations. This dancing soul-mate has toured their artistic concepts in places like GERMANY, DUBAI, UK, USA, GUYANA, TANZANIA, MALDIVES, etc. Pranaame Bhagawati‘s expertise in the category of ‘abhinaya’ (expression) is the main ingredient of her compositions. Her choreographies like OM, COLOURS OF WAVES, THE HUNT, THE 12 DANCING PRINCESSES, THE SPIRIT OF TAAJ, etc. are widely appreciated.

Pranaame Bhagawati spoke to Onkareshwar Pandey about her journey of dance, and also about her socio-cultural activities in Assam.

1. So you are a professional dancer! Which forms of Dances you have mastered? And how the journey started?
Ans. 1) I’m a Kathak danseuse and I also perform the Sattriya dance style. I started learning dance from the age of five and with God’s grace, I’m still dancing and living my life with it!
Mastering in any art form, purely lies upon the varied dimensions which an artiste creates by his/her attained knowledge and who builds a massive creative contour. And we all know that, knowledge can never be concise within the classroom learning only. There may be many artistes who are highly qualified in terms of certifications but with low quality or imitated productions and at the same time there may be many artistes who brought in new concepts and innovative practices but holds fewer certifications. I believe that, an artiste must collaborate and explore consistently to grow.
2. You are a danseuse, choreographer, writer, actress and a cultural activist. But what is your core Identity, which you love to be called?
Ans. 2) My core identity is being an artiste. And it is this fundamental element which illuminated different artistic and aesthetic thinking within me. Learning and loving dance from my childhood, opened many doors for my cultural approaches. If you look for art, you will find it everywhere, in your surroundings, in your thinking, behavior, communications, gadgets, etc. Earlier, art was bloating inside me and now I’m doing the same with it.
3. You are a versatile artiste from northeast India, but you are proficient in Kathak Dance. Who had been your Guru?
Ans. 3) Kathak has been a popular Indian classical dancing in my place Assam, besides Sattriya, Bharatnatyam and Odissi. Although there have been many activities taking place for propagation of the Sattriyadance art form, but there is no dearth of learners or practitioners and even promoters for other dance forms in the region. In my journey of dance, I had and have few people who encourage, support and motivate me and I heartily consider them all as my Guru(s). So, by taking the name as my Guru only from whom I have learnt, won’t be fair. I always consider my father as my first Guru, who was my constant supporter and firmly believed in me. He belonged from a different professional field, but extended everything he could for my learning. Today, whatever little I have achieved, it is only because, my father believed I can. He had tremendous hope and dreams for me. Technically I received my Kathak dance training from Shri Bipul Das at the start and later Sattriya dance training from Late Jibonjit Dutta in Guwahati, Assam. And after my marriage with Jayanta Bhagawati who is an alumnus of BhantkhandeSangeetVidyapeeth, Lucknow, I explored and experienced a whole new world of creative implementations in dancing and choreographies.
4. You are also proficient in Sattriya dance. How Kathak is different from Sattriya dance?
Ans. 4) Yea, I’ve performed Sattriya in some revered platforms under the banner of Directorate of Cultural Affairs Maharashtra, SangeetNatakAkademi, ICCR, etc. All the Indian classical dances follow the aspects of NatyaSashtra and the concept of ‘Bhangas’ is also very prominent in the classical dances.To be precise, Kathak dance belongs from the northern part of India i.e. Uttar Pradesh which later spread into different Gharanas like Lucknow, Jaipur, Banaras and lesser known RaigarhGharana. It is a Samabhanga(equipoise) dance art famous for its footworks and pirouettes. Sattriya originated during the time of the great saint and scholar MahapurushaSrimantaSankardev (1449 – 1568) in Assam, who founded the Ekasarana Dharma (Shelter-in-one-religion) a panentheistic religion. The Tribhanga (three flexions) is predominant in Satrriya dance and this dance art is strongly based upon Krishna Bhakti.
5. Did you always think as a child that you wanted to be a professional dancer?
Ans. 5) As a child, I had no idea of what does being a professional dancer means at that stage. But yes, one thing I was sure of that, no matter what, I must keep dancing my whole life to stay happy and to feel life with contentment. And at this stage of my life, I feel so blessed that, my entire life and relationships are surrounded by elements of dancing!

6. You were a student of Journalism, you did Masters in Mass Communications also – How do you see the Media writings on Art, Culture and Literature now days?
Ans. 6) I love studying subjects associated tohuman and societal endeavours. Subjects like tourism, sociology, anthropology, literature, communications, excites me from within and I try linking such concepts with arts. I was born into a family of printing press and so from childhood witnessing designing and printing of pamphlets, brochures, books, etc. was obvious. I brought out a webzine named ‘Amrapali’ upon arts, culture and heritage to let the readers explore the global cultural diaspora. Nowadays, due to internet, online magazines and blogs are very popular as it lets one know and read about different cultural ventures across the globe. Many writings upon arts and culture in the Media is basically cultural reporting. Besides this, we also need to develop into the area of art criticism too!
7. You have founded AMRAPALI (Society for ARTS) for preaching of arts, culture and heritage and propagate creative thoughts for artistic sustainability...How you think artistic sustainability is possible?
Ans. 7) AMRAPALI (Society for ARTS) is for anything and everything artistic. We have different activities, events and initiatives, all concentrated upon arts, culture and heritage that involves artistes, upcoming talents, art lovers and facilitators from various age groups. We organize annual events like Culture Colloquium, Chimera and Amrapali International Arts Conclave and workshops, lecture demonstrations, seminars time to time.
We also work upon two missions: ‘Art is Life!’ and ‘Local to Global’ which aims at bringing in prospects as well as increase in artistic production. Art is Life! is concentrated upon teaching art education to underprivilege children and women and creating a professional platform for them. Local to Global is a concept to promote rural artisans and craftsmen and their products with both traditional as well as contemporary outlook. We are striving hard to create ample of opportunities for artistes to lead a healthy livelihood, so that, besides being a doctor, engineer and a scientist, a child can dream to be an artiste too!
8.Who or what was your inspiration? What has been the role of your husband?
Ans 8) My inspirations were my loved ones who motivated and supported me at all conditions. I’m blessed to have my life partner belonging from the similar field of practice. He dares to choreograph productions of traditional concept with creative and contemporary outlook. He did some marvelous productionsmore than decades back like ‘Bihu Bareboroniya’, ‘Kaziranga’, ‘Brahmaputra’, ‘Shiv Tandav’, etc. All these productions are very ravishing, fresh and original. We both always try to represent our native cultural touch through our choreographic productions. And its only him, who completely changed some predominant conservative notions regarding classical dancing I was having within me.

9.What were the hardest aspects of training to dance/honing your craft?
Ans. 9) I had difficulties and struggles throughout my dancing journey from a very early time. I should admit that, I had been ditched by my mentors and by ones from whom I expected support in my professional career. So, many things were not easy for me. But, now at this stage I thank them for showing me the darker side while I was climbing a ladder of hopes and dreams. These have built me strong, extrovert and adamant. I worked hard to change every single ‘No’ to ‘Yes’. And I firmly believe that, when you are honest within you, even God will not think of defying your abilities.

10.As a professional dancer what has been your most defining and rewarding moment?
Ans. 10) I was fourteen years old when I won my first Gold Medal in Kathak dance representing Assam at the National Children’s Festival, organized by the Governmentof India. Next in 2002, again I represented my State Assam at the 7th National Youth Festival, organized by Government of India and won the Gold Medal in Kathak dance again. These two accomplishments brought within me an affirmation that, my lifeline lies in dance. And somewhere I always wanted to contribute for the benefit and promotion of artiste fraternity. I missed by father a lot during my first international performancewith my husband Jayanta Bhagawati, fusing Kathak dance and German Brass band held atdifferent places of Germanyalongwith the Indian Embassy, Berlin in 2003. And thereafter, I toured my artistic skills in places like Dubai, United Kingdom, USA, Guyana, Tanzania, Maldives, etc. and in each such tour, I always represented a piece related to my native element. The spectators’ applause and love are my treasurable moments which boosts my artistic spirit.
11.What ambitions do you have still?
Ans. 11) My dream is to bring diversity and unbiased approach in the arena of cultural thinking, representation and administration. AMRAPALI (Society for ARTS) strives for artistic excellence and promoting a variety of artistic genres. We work for artistes at different levels and areas. We promote them through our ventures and in this process, we try gearing up their earning too. I hope to grow AMRAPALI (Society for ARTS) to such an extentthat, our efforts leave an ever-lasting impact towards arts and artistes as well as the society at large. We must break some ongoing lobbyism and bring out and promote struggling, talented and profound original artistes.

12.What advice do you have for aspiring dancers who want to do what you do?
Ans. 12) My advice for aspiring dancers is that, always believe in yourself. Art is a ‘GandharvaVidya’, if you achieve something dishonestly, it will never stay with you and hence you’ll lose your identity as an artiste. So, be honest and original, stay focused and energized. Learn to encourage, appreciate and promote other artistes as well.
13.What do you think it is about dancing that makes people so happy?
Ans. 13) Dance is within all of us. And why only humans? We belong from a cultural history wherein it is believed that, our Gods like Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, etc. also dances. We can also see synchronized physical movements artistically represented by peacocks, flamingo, Birds of Paradise, etc. The constant rhythm that is transmitted by the universe is accumulated by artistes and showcased in form of artistic geniuses. And movements, enactments, expressions follow this route of universal rhythm to bring in eternity in their creative thought processes. We all love to move ourselves onto rhythm in special occasions, ceremonies and festivals. Dance is the expression of the soul and it knows no boundaries of geography and religion. It is the expression of contented feeling which abodes within us.
14.What advice do you have for the Modi & Sonowal Governments for promoting Art, Culture and Literature?
Ans. 14) I always believe that, there should be ample of scope and opportunities for creative and energetic art enthusiasts. We should cut through the lobbyism that exists in most of the functionalities. No doubt, the government is having many schemes for artistes, but, I’m not too sure if everybody is aware of it. So, it should become an added responsibility for Cultural Administrators to make all artistes aware of its existing or new initiatives and keep bringing out upcoming talents even from rural areas for major festivals, exchange programs, grants, scholarships, fellowships, etc. There are some emerging artistes as well as cultural organisations doing lot many works for promotion of arts and culture. I’m sure that, if the cultural departments strengthen its data bank of artistes they would remain updated of all artistes’s achievements/profile and will not have to keep depending upon a handful of known artistes only.

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