Mumbai: Odissi dancer from Trinidad explains his love for the classical dance
Ahead of his performance at a festival in the city, an Odissi dancer from Trinidad recounts how his love for the classical dance form brought him to India to start all over again
As a young boy growing up in the picturesque island of Trinidad in the Caribbean, Vinod Kevin Bachan's exposure to the Indian classical dance form of Odissi was seldom through live performances. But the little of what he saw on TV was enough to have a lasting impact on him. "I was left mesmerised. I knew Odissi was my calling," says the 27-year-old, ahead of his performance at the Raindrops Festival of Indian Classical Dance. Entering its 28th edition this year, the festival is organised under the aegis of the Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts, which was founded by Mumbai-based veteran kathak exponent Uma Dogra in honour of her guru, the late Pandit Durgalal. The festival's aim is to encourage and provide a platform to up-and-coming Indian classical dancers.
Reaching this platform, however, has not come easy to Bachan. His arduous journey in pursuit of mastering Odissi began at home. "I come from a traditional background, where dancing [as a profession] for men is considered odd. While my mother was supportive throughout, it took my father some time to warm up to the idea," he shares, adding that he began with learning kuchipudi for seven years in Trinidad, before he came across an Odissi dancer who had come on an Indian government scholarship to the island nation. "She opened my eyes to how Odissi could be taken up as a career. I trained under her for some time to arm myself with basic knowledge of the dance form. And then it was time to come to India," he says.
Bachan gave up his studies in computer science and arrived in Bhubaneswar in 2009. But despite taking up rigorous training in Odissi, he felt something was missing. "I finally found my guru in Ranjana Gauhar ji, and moved to Delhi in 2013," he says, speaking of the Odissi exponent, choreographer, writer and filmmaker, who received the Padma Shri in 2003. A firm believer in the guru-shishya tradition, Bachan plans to stay on in Delhi to continue learning every day from Gauhar.
"In Trinidad, as is the case elsewhere, including India, a lot of people feel they can pick up a dance form by watching videos on YouTube. Besides, Bollywood movies are the window to Indian classical dance forms for most people, and these films, if at all, focus mainly on kathak and Bharatanatyam. So, there is no option for me to go back, as I will have to start from scratch and also mould my dance [to local tastes], which will require me to move away from pure classical moves," he says, lamenting the fact that when people come to watch a performance, they expect gimmicks like splits and kicks.
"Odissi has acrobatic movements, too, but a performance cannot be just about that," says Bachan. "It is, after all, a dance form that brings temple sculptures to life, where the music it is performed to can take you to another realm, and the expressive style of which becomes a conduit for your inner feelings."
Over the years, more than 200 dancers have performed in the festival, many of whom have gone on to become leading exponents in their respective dance forms. "But young artistes are finding it difficult to take up dance as a full-time career because it is still not seen as a mainstream profession. I don't blame the current generation, but the situation in the country, where the arts are still to get their due," says founder Uma Dogra.
On: July 14 and 15, 4.15 pm
At: Mini Theatre, PL Deshpande Maharashtra Kala Academy, Prabhadevi.
Entry: Rs 300 (for daily donor pass); Rs 500 (for festival pass)
Akash Ambani-Shloka Mehta's engagement party: A starry affair