I am open to all artistic experiences: Shobana

Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Feb 25

She says there is something about ancient temples that makes her come alive. That it is here that she is at home.

"Whenever I can snatch two-three days, I get into the car or a train and head straight for a temple site, mostly Brihadishvara Temple. Even in Khajuraho, I seldom miss an opportunity to just go and sit at one of the temples. As an artiste, it is important to take in all that inexplainable energy," said dancer and actor Shobana.

A recipient of Padma Shri, Shobana is a two-time best actress National Award winner, who has to her credit around 230 films, predominantly in Malayalam. She does not really like it when asked if her latest movie 'Varane Avashyamundu' is her comeback film.

"I may not have been doing films actively for the past decade, but I still won't call it a 'comeback'. Debutant director Anoop Sathyan had the imagery of a particular person, and was persistent that I do the role. I had worked with his father, Sathyan Anthikad, and saw the same fire in him. He even shifted the set-up to Chennai. I had the intuition that nothing will go wrong," Shobana said.

Insisting that she prefers not to look back and carries all experiences with her, Shobana said that neither in the past, nor now, does she distinguish between commercial and arthouse cinema. "I am glad I was in a position to select films that interested me. By the way, all the major awards that I have won are for so-called commercial movies," she said.

All set to start her next project where she will shoot classical dance videos at major temple sites, the dancer said she does not want to approach the government for funds, thanks to red tape.

Precisely why she wants to crowdsource and then give back to the community. "Look at the immense heritage all around this country and imagine the kind of cultural tourism such projects can generate. People in temple towns in Thailand are living off tourism. Of course, here nobody even approached me or other major dancers to start something on these lines," she said.

The dancer, whose performance for a full-house on the third day of the Khajuraho Dance Festival, which was also web-casted, said that the choreography is always different when one performs for a live audience and for television.

"Here, it was both, which proved to be bit of an anti-thesis. Precisely why I had to keep telling the camera crew, and figuring out which camera they were cutting into. Attention to such small details can do wonders for a festival. Of course, it was great to be part of the festival organised in such a magical ambience," Shobana said.

At times when artistes are expected to make their political and ideological stands clear in almost every interview, the dancer, who trained under Chitra Visweswaran and Padma Subrahmanyam, feels that "It's not fair to tell an artiste what to be creative about."

Shobana, who has been running the 'Kalarpana -- Institute of Bharatanatyam' for close to three decades, lamented that despite persistent requests, government funding remains a distant mirage.

"So much so that now I have given up all hopes. They probably think she is an actor, and so has enough money. This is despite the fact that it is one of the few institutes which has academically qualified full-time teachers. All the money goes towards paying salaries. Now either I can keep approaching the government, or concentrate on making dancers. I would prefer the latter," she said.

For someone who is known for her innovation and experimentation, what purists have to say doesn't really figure in her scheme of things.

"Dances come from the temple, we know that because we have so many sculptures which are a thousand years old. Everybody is screaming hoarse that they are traditional, but remember, there is something always older out there.

"Every generation has its right to move on, and that's what we did, that's what our guru did. You do have a couple of people who say they are pure, but they really need to read up history. Odissi and Mohiniyattam hasn't changed so much, but other dances surely have," she said.

Talking about how the information revolution has not left even the classical dance forms untouched, she elaborated, "In our time, we had a guru. He/she had a style. You were not supposed to go and see anybody else dancing, so that you develop your own distinct style.

"Now everything is on the net, the whole style is one as the source is the same. Just because a particular person is getting a lot of clicks, everybody starts doing the same thing. You are then giving the audience the same thing and then complaining that they don't come for shows."

Her dance-drama 'Trance' that has also toured the US and Canada is something she is excited about. Boasting of a unifying spirituality through Indian, Asian and Western musical cultures, the dancer said, "It is something which is very me."