“An Artist is communicating to you through their dance, and all an audience is expected to do is to keep an open mind for receptivity; and the concept of abinayams and bhavanas follow eventually - the interest begets the knowledge and not the other way around”, says Ms. Mohul Mukherjee, the founder Director of Shivamallari Dance Institute, Kolkata, and a disciple of Shri Padma Subramaniyam and Sri Soundarya Srivathsa. Opening with a Thillai Ambala Shabdam followed by a salutation to the lord, her performance at the Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club proved her point leaving us in an entranced dialogue.
In contrast to conventional dancers, Ms. Mohul Mukherjee embarked on her Bharatanatyam journey at a later stage in life. Inspired by her father's musical background, her initial affinity for music eventually transitioned into a passion for dance when she reached the age of 13. It was the allure of Puranic narratives and the spiritual connection with the divine that captivated her interest in this traditional dance form. Beyond the superficial appeal of costumes and makeup that initially captivated her youthful gaze, it was the profound cultural and ancestral roots of Bharatanatyam that became the focal point of her passion. Her performance on Sri Chakra Raja Simhasaneshwari, served as a testament to her deep love for the divine, bringing the deity right into our midst with her grace and artistry. It is worth mentioning that Sri Chakra Raja Simhasaneshwari is crafted by Agatsya, whose period dates back to 1200 to 1500 BCE, blending Tamil and Sanskrit words seamlessly into a harmonious song.
While playing Mahisasuramardini presentation by Doordarshan Kendra, Kolkata & DD National 2023
Expressing her sentiments, she remarked, "Despite my Bengali roots, the temples of South India have consistently held my fascination, along with the captivating stories that surround them." In a poignant portrayal of the love between Ram and Sita during the first meeting, her rendition of "Yaro Ivar Yaro" composed by Arunachala Kavirayar not only showcased her artistic prowess but also reflected her affection for the Tamil language. Her expressions seamlessly harmonized with the lyrics, underscoring her deep connection with the cultural and linguistic nuances embedded in her performance.
Ms. Mohul Mukherjee with her Guru Dr. Soundarya Srivathsa (Left) and Guru Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam (Right)
Embarking on her dance odyssey, Ms. Mohul Mukherjee initially honed her skills at a local dance school. Progressing further, she delved into the nuances of dance under the guidance of Thankamani Kuttiyamma. Her educational pursuit in the realm of fine arts led her to Chennai, where she completed her master's degree under the tutelage of Guru Padma Shri Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subramaniyam. Currently, she is immersed in the exploration of Karanas under the guidance of Dr. Padma Subramaniyam, continuing her journey of artistic refinement. Additionally, Ms. Mohul is dedicatedly imbibing the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam from Dr. Soundarya Srivatsa of Bengaluru.
According to Ms. Mohul Mukherjee, dance serves as a medium for expressing thoughts that may elude conventional human communication. She emphasizes that dance transcends mere physical fitness, embodying essential values. Beyond its physical benefits, dance contributes to mental stability, fostering a transformative journey through the sacred bond between guru and shishya. Ms. Mohul advocates for embracing "guru mukhi vidya," stressing the significance of adhering to the teachings of the guru. In this way, dance becomes a powerful instrument for spiritual and emotional enrichment, guiding individuals towards becoming better versions of themselves.
Annual Dance Festival at Shivamallari Dance Institute
The profound discipline instilled by dance echoes in every facet of Ms. Mohul's life. Even seemingly mundane tasks, such as making coffee or draping a saree, are infused with a pursuit of perfection derived from the dance discipline. “This discipline, rooted in "Samarpana" or dedication, ensures that each action resonates with a sense of devotion to Lord Krishna, illustrating the transformative influence of dance on one's character and conduct”, says the West Bengal based Bharatanatyam dancer.
In her reflection on the concept of "ishta deivata," Ms. Mohul Mukherjee reveals that Lord Krishna stands as the wellspring of her inspiration and every deity that she dances upon lays a strand of inspiration on her. Acknowledging the impact of the qualities embodied by various deities, she expresses how the qualities of gods and characters in the puranas influence and shape her life.
Gratefully attributing her cherished memories to her guru, Dr. Padma Srinivasan, Ms. Mohul recounts a important moment when her guru offered to teach her the karanas (108 key transitions) after her Viva, marking it as her favorite memory to date. She said that it is beyond a “dream come true” moment. She also holds her guru in high esteem, considering her a profound source of inspiration.
Teaching at SMDI
Offering a simple yet profound message to fellow dancers, Ms. Mohul encourages them with a smiling declaration, "Just Dance!" Emphasizing the importance of carrying forward tradition, she advocates for ensuring that the rich cultural legacy does not end with the present generation. With a heart dedicated to service and sharing of artistic happiness, Ms. Mohul Mukherjee, who currently imparts her knowledge to over 200 students in her Shivamallari Dance Institute, Kolkata, particularly values the opportunity to teach children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. She underscores the significance of service to the world, urging everyone to contribute in some meaningful way to the community they inhabit.
We posed to her the long lingering question, “How can we ensure that traditional dance transcends linguistic and cultural barriers, captivating even the most unfamiliar audience members, and resonating with the last person standing, who may not be acquainted with the nuances of dance grammar?”, Ms. Mohul Mukherjee offers a profound perspective. She suggests that an artist communicates through dance, and the audience's role is to maintain an open mind for receptivity to become sahridaya (close) with the dance. According to her, the understanding of abinayams and bhavanas follows naturally; it is the audience's interest that begets knowledge, emphasizing that the flow is from interest to knowledge, not the other way around.
Along with a spellbinding dance performance, Ms. Mohul Mukherjee encapsulates the idea that receptivity and curiosity serve as the gateway to a deeper appreciation and comprehension of the traditional dance form. And as spectators, we cultivated a receptive mindset, seeking to align ourselves with the artist's mode of communication and all that resulted was awe and inspiration. We extend our gratitude to Shri Dharanendra Momaya Ji for introducing us to the enchanting world of dance through this performance. Your significant contribution in organising music and dance programmes in Coimbatore is inspiring and we are truly thankful for your invaluable support.
|| Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah ||
Vigneshwaran, Senior Correspondent of TheVerandahClub.com is both a skilled digital content writer and marketer by profession, as well as an avid independent writer driven by his passion. His literary talents extend to crafting beautiful poems and captivating short stories. In addition to these creative pursuits, he has also authored a book titled "Halahala," which can be found on Wattpad.
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