"I will not have my art run down by a bunch of narrow minded individuals with fancy pretentious ideals."
Jairaj is an impulsive, rebellious young man whose only ambition in life is to become an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer. He comes from a line of freedom fighters and his conservative family doesn’t consider dance to be a profession worthy of a man. His life has been a constant battle, from getting to choose his wife or picking a profession he loves, or dealing with the conflicting ambitions of the people around him and the demands of society.
In the process of finding who Jairaj is, how he thinks, how he perceives the world around him, I was quite fortunate as I found a lot of rich material to draw from in my own personal life. I have always been more impulsive than calculative in my personal life. I have done things that felt right and never cared about what others would think or what others would term "practical." That's the only way to live that I know. And that's the only way Jairaj knows.
Of course, there are traits that Jairaj and I don’t share. One of them is Bharatnatyam. It was abundantly clear from the get-go that Bharatnatyam was one of the central themes of the play and Jairaj would have to look convincing as a Bharatnatyam dancer. And I have no background in Bharatnatyam dancing at all. I have been fortunate that our director, Sindu Singh, has been gracious enough to allow me to learn some of the very basic mudras and dance steps of Bharatnatyam from a very talented Bharatnatyam teacher in the Bay Area, Nayana Shenoy of Shivam School of Dance.
So have I perfected the art of Bharatnatyam? Of course, not. Can I call myself a Bharatnatyam dancer? Not even in my dreams. But going through this learning process has definitely filled me with a deep appreciation of the dance form and helped me understand the love that Jairaj has for it.
It has been a wonderful journey for me bringing Jairaj to life these past months and it’s not over yet. Will he overcome his struggles and emerge victorious in the end or will he succumb to the obstacles? Find out this coming December.
- Ritesh Jaltare