Interactive with renowned dancer Prathibha Prahlad:
"I feel that one role merges into another"
Prathibha Prahlad, is a celebrated Indian Bharatanatyam dancer whose multi- faceted personality reflects in the outstanding work she continues to do in the arts field. Her contribution goes much beyond her own trail- blazing dance career which has taken her to prestigious platforms all over the world. A cultural visionary, besides being a star performer of Bharatanatyam, her work the field of arts is profound and unparalleled in contemporary dance history. Starting her performance career at the age of 6, she was hailed a star before she turned 20.
The Prasiddha Foundation was established in 1991 with the purpose of fostering love and appreciation for all forms of art and to work through the medium of arts for the promotion of national and international cultural contact.
In recognition of her services to Indian Classical Dances, she was recently honored by Government of India with "Padma Sri" award. We get in touch with her and get her response and discuss what plans she has for future through her dance.
First of all, our heartiest Congratulations for the prestigious Padma Sri from Government of India. Your response when you came to know of the announcement of the Honor? How did you feel?
I was happy of course that I was considered for this award. More, I was relieved that it had finally been announced. Every year, people I met would keep saying that they wished I had got it, they were surprised that I was not part of the list of awardees etc etc. So much so , that when I went on stage, organisers would announce that I was a PADMA awardee !!!! I had to begin my speech on so many occasions saying that I was not a PADMA awardee. At least that was taken care of now.
Who are the people that need to be mentioned, those who inspired on this journey as (..or even events) that you think helped you in giving your best to classical dance and to attain such a special award?
I find it really cliched when people start thanking persons important when they get the award. It is so 'filmy'. I was always very driven. If I put my heart & soul into something, I made sure I excelled.Thats the kind of person I am. I did watch a performance of Yamini Krishnamurthy when I was 4 , perched on my father's shoulders and I was fascinated. My learning began then. But my parents got to know I was learning two years later, when the teacher wanted me to go on stage for a childrens event.
I decided to be a professional dancer when I heard a constant refrain in Bangalore that "Bangalore dancers were not nationally recognised" and 'could never be top of the line'. For me , this was a challenge. I had to prove others wrong and I had to prove to myself that I could be a "nationally famous dancer" too , despite coming from Bangalore. So I worked really hard and spent almost 12 hours a day learning and practising. My mother Smt. Prema Prahlad was a great source of support. She was liberal and understanding. My partner Sri. Ramakrishna Hegde also believed in me and my dance. I am grateful for their presence in the crucial years of my life.
I am of course grateful to my gurus , especially Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan and Sri. Muthuswamy Pillai , both of whom had immense confidence that I would "make it big" as a professional dancer. And then there was my mridangist Sri. V.P Ramdoss , who was a pillar of support. It is very sad that none of them is alive today to share my success.
You are a Performing Artist, a Teacher, a Choreographer, Organizer - How do you feel about each of the roles.
I feel that one role merges into another. I started off as a dancer and along the way began teaching. When you grow with your art form, there is an urge to explore, innovate and choreograph. Little by little , the envelope is extended. The choreography part has to be organic. You have to feel the need to explore and innovate. One cannot do it just because others are or because it is contemporary to do so!
How do you find time to handle such demanding roles.. besides family responsibility?
I live and grow in all my roles everyday. Life and art cannot be kept apart. For me, my life is my dance and my dance is my life. Anything and everything to do with dance , music , theatre and other art forms drive me. They keep me alive. It is very ,very difficult to be a single parent with no support system and be an artiste. Most often, you keep wondering whether you are doing the right thing. Art vascillates between extreme discipline on the one hand and lack of displine on many others, while parenting requires and constancy. It is tough. Of course the financials and keeping a stable home is a big challenge. My attitude is -"I just have to do it" and so "smile and do it".
Changing times and traditions, how do you see the classical dances being taught, on new choreographic works, on upholding Parampara?
We are living in the information age. So, it is hard to keep distinctons between paramparas etc. I find everything a happy, healthy mix.One does not see sharp differences or distinctions between styles as earlier. Lots of times, choreographies etc are copied all the time. In India , we do not have strict patenting for artistic works, especially performing arts. So, everyone does everything, after seeing it or maybe imitating. The only difference is in how they do it. I find the "soul" missing most times , while the body moves to perfection.The "soul" to me is the distinctive factor between dancers and that is really what I want to see.
About dreams that you were able to realize through your works, some may have been remaining unrealized, if so about them.. And about your vision for the future?
I have pretty much lived my life on my own terms and have paid a heavy price for it. I love Bharatanatyam. I learnt it from great gurus and tried my best to do it well. Whenever something inspired me - maybe literature, maybe lyrics, maybe music, maybe just an idea, I explored and did it. So , I dont feel unfulfilled as an artiste. What I absolutely hate is politics in dance and I try my best to be out of it.
My future is going to be much of the same thing. I have hopes for the Delhi International Arts Festival blossoming into the most sought after Festival in the world. If it can reach where it has in 9 years, and with not much support, just imagine where it can reach if all agencies and Government organizations involved in the deliberation of the arts come together. I would like the cultural centre that I wish to build in Bangalore become a true multi-arts Centre with free flow of ideas and artistic expressions.
*Wish your dream of Multi-arts Centre in Bangalore turns to reality soon. Thank you for your responses and once again Congratulations
Contributer- Bhavanvitha (email@example.com)
Copyrights Acknowledged,Feb16, PriyaLasya, Hamara, (C)
*Information as provided by contributor. All views are of the contributor