The Untrodden Path

May 08, 2007
Gauri Warudi

It's different! The choices these guys made. Just as we sing paeans to women who make it big in a male dominated world, it's only fair that due credit be given to the men who dare to be different and choose the path hitherto trodden by women!

Parimal Phadke - Bharat Natyam Exponent

Parimal took to dance at a very early age of four and half years. Says he, with much amusement, "When I was all of two, my mom had seen the spark in me and when I was about four years old, she decided to take me to Guru Rema Shrikanth in Baroda to learn Bharat Natyam. Initially my guru didn't agree to tutor me, but when my mom requested her to let me perform to some music, she saw my potential and passion for dance and agreed. So that was like my first audition", he adds.

At different stages in his student career and later too, life threw up challenges to this young lad and he found himself wondering which path to choose and each time his brother and parents stood by him, egging him on and nudging him that much closer to his life's passion.

When his parents moved from Baroda to Lucknow, he didn't for a moment think he should change over to Kathak, but doggedly continued to pursue his Bharat Natyam training, returning to Baroda every summer, well until he was seventeen or eighteen. Coming to Pune once again posed a question to him about his studies. "Dance is definitely not a money fetching career, so I had to think of an alternate career, but here again, dance overtook all else and soon I found myself in Baroda pursuing a B.Com and continuing dance with my guru," beams Parimal.

Very soon, Parimal gave his arangetram or first stage appearance and then pursued a Masters in dance at the Lalit Kala Kendra, in Pune University. During his Masters program, he did some valuable research about the male protagonist or 'nayak' as is called in dancing parlance. He says he has been lucky that his gurus both Guru Rema and Guru Sucheta Chapekar didn't make him dance any female protagonist roles. "The study of Angika (Body Language) is my area of interest. This study led me to Guru Jayashree Rajagopalan (disciple of Dr. Padma Subrhamanyam) under whom I'm also training in dance during Bharata's times. I am also taking guidance in Choregoraphy and Abhinaya in Bharatanatyam from Guru Smita Mahajan," he informs.

About being teased or treated as a different one, by his friends and colleagues, he says that indeed in school boys would poke fun, but he was blissfully happy being the chosen one at school functions and at other places. It's only now on hindsight that it irritates him, he says with a smile.

"Dance didn't really pose much of a problem to my masculinity, if that's what you're asking me, he says, guessing my next question as I hint at it, adding, "Well, by the time it could really become such a problem, I was well into the art form, for anything to bother me. Of course, I've had to make special efforts to contain my mannerisms and take precautions about my body language, so no, dance hasn't really bothered my persona as a man," he concludes.

Dance has brought Parimal much recognition and given him ample satisfaction. He has been empanelled by the ICCR, is a recipient of the National Scholarship for Dance, the national title - Singarmani, Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar Puraskar, Junior Research Fellowship from the UGC. Parimal has performed in the Pune Festival, Natyanjali Festival, and Yuva Sangeet Mahotsava. Houston International festival, Texas and Asian Festival, Columbus, Ohio. He was amongst 14 dancers from all over the world for the Experimental International Dance Painting Project which took place in Geneva, Switzerland in the year 2001.

"Besides being a performer and choreographer, I am an avid writer on dance. I have contributed articles for many websites like Narthaki, danceart etc. Recently I was on a performance tour to the U.S. I performed with my colleague Shambhavi Vaze, renowned Kathak dancer from Pune. I have been training students in Bharatanatyam, who have won awards in various national dance competitions. I am also a visiting faculty for the Centre for Performing Arts, University of Pune," adds the dancer.

He has composed and choreographed a dance show titled "Swarnim" a.k.a the story of gold, an interesting concept, with a fusion of dance steps. Parimal is acutely aware that if the gen-next has to be brought to the theatres to appreciate dance, only pure classical dance cannot work. His endeavour is to blend classical with contemporary. "I feel I am trying to trace the past, blend in the present, and see the future," is how he sums up his tryst with the dance form

Parimal is once again in the US with Shambhavi doing what he knows best and adores - innovating and teaching dance.

Dr. Nandkishore Kapote - Kathak Exponent

His love for dance was seen by his family even when he was barely three years old. His journey to the enviable position today is one filled with tears, struggle, ridicule and lots and lots of hard work, combined with grit and determination. Dr. Nandkishore Kapote is a kathak exponent, teacher and guide.

"My grand mother and aunts tell me that I'd simply start dancing the moment the radio would be blaring some music. Those days, dance itself was looked down upon, whether a girl wanted to learn or a boy. More so, if boys wanted to learn, it was like blasphemy! But let me tell you, it is a fallacy that dance is a woman's prerogative or that dance is a woman-dominated field... Do you know who are the original teachers of dance? Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna. So when and how did dance become woman dominated? In fact in the olden days, women dancers were frowned upon, nay, shunned. Yet a lady like Sitara Devi, against all odds, carved a niche for herself, isn't it?" he questions.

He's had to face ridicule, called 'naachya' (a derogatory word), and worse. Nevertheless his perseverance paid off and his is the stuff that success stories are made of. His grandfather was a Collector and was frequently transferred. Kapote, living with his grandparents also moved around a lot. His grand father wanted him to join the government services too. However he had a mind of his own. Having completed his graduation in commerce, he was hoping to be able to take up dance as a profession. During his school days, he had always dominated the stage at annual gatherings and knew how much joy it gave him.

His father stood by him firmly, and so, the day he was supposed to choose between either an IAS job or a dance scholarship, he naturally chose the latter and his father was only too pleased. He was the first male dancer from Maharashtra to have won the scholarship. Dr. Nandkishore Kapote probably secretly smiles at all those moments, of pain and struggle, and is satisfied that he took a right decision. Heading for the dance classes of well-known kathak maestro, Pt. Birju Maharaj, in Delhi, armed with a Government of India scholarship, Kapote for the next 10 years or more, would make dance his life! Many bitter sweet memories of those days, coupled with various experiences with Birju Maharaj, whom he reverently refers to as Maharaj-ji, comprise the long arduous journey to his present status of teacher, guide and founder of the Nandkishore Cultural Society in Nigdi and Pune.

Traveling overseas for various dance shows with his guru and learning other dance forms, has made Kapote a treasure house of innovation and creativity. His dabbling with different subjects for ballets and fusion dance, brought him much acclaim. He refuses to compromise with the purity of the kathak dance form, but feels that it certainly should be presented in a way for gen-next to enjoy it.

Ballets on the life of Dr. Babsaheb Ambedkar (titled Maha-maanav) and Mahavir were challenges he accepted and came away with flying colors, bringing tears to the collective eyes of his audience with the sheer beauty and simplicity of his presentation.

During the centenary celebrations of the well-known Bal Gandharva, he presented a ballet on the great master himself (titled, "Narvar Krishna samaan"). His get-up and presentation brought amusing confusion amongst his troupe who didn't know he was to dress up as a woman, just like Bal Gandharva used to!

Awards and citations followed naturally from a very early age, with him getting the "Sur Singar" award way back in the 80s. Others followed and over the years, his kitty of awards comprises "Singarmani", "NrityaShiromani", "Rajeev Gandhi Award" and many more.

So has dance adversely affected him as a person, as a man? "Not really", says the dancer, in a very matter-of-fact way. Waving his hand nonchalantly, he says, "People used to cast aspersions on my persona, but I've had my share of friends, affairs and relationships. Why should dance make any difference? My mannerisms and body language as a dancer end with my performance on stage. Off stage I'm like any normal male."

As a teacher, he's seen more than 2000-3000 students metamorphose from gawky unsure people to confident graceful dancers. "Many have started their own classes, some have joined the film industry and some have done theatre," says the proud guru. However he has some interesting tales to tell about his students who are senior citizens. Of 76 year old Ramkrishna Tagare, who learnt dance with him for 8 years, until the ripe old age of 84 and danced his way into the Limca book of records. Tagare was the oldest student and Kapote the youngest guru! Following Tagare were a 60-year old couple who came to Kapote to learn kathak as they wanted to keep themselves gainfully busy in their retired life. Others came to him for fitness through dance.

As Kapote regales me with his stories, a little girl shyly comes up to him, touches his feet and lisps something to him. A newbie, an aspiring kathak dancer, perhaps? Her parents have dreams, like hordes of them these days, points out Kapote; parents who want their children to get instant fame, courtesy television and cinema. Kapote feels parents should stand by their children in choosing their careers and dreams, but also guide them well and be practical.

Kapote is faculty with the Tilak Vidyapeeth, examiner with Pune University and now, by establishing the Birju Maharaj Research Centre, has turned guide for aspiring doctorate students. Also a choreographer for films and stage shows, Kapote has done a lead role in a Bhojpuri film "Naach" which remains his favorite to date.

Surely a man of many talents and colors!

Gauri Warudi, a freelance journalist and script writer for the past 18 years has been a film columnist and critic, mainly associated with the Marathi entertainment industry. She is also now a filmmaker, having made 4 short documentary films and a short fiction film.
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May 8, 2007
10:22 PM

Great piece. Don't understand dance, but it takes courage to take the road less travelled.

Deepa Krishnan
May 9, 2007
02:00 PM

Honestly, some photographs would have made this so much more interesting.

For those like me, who missed the photos, here are some - check out Parimal Phadke with and without dance make-up:

I couldnt find photos of Dr. Kapote.

May 9, 2007
09:47 PM

Dear PH and Deepa, thanks for reading the article and your comments.

@Deepa---I'd have loved to put pictures, but I am not familiar with the procedure of uploading pictures with the article.I have Dr Kapote's pictures and will put them up if I can.:)

May 9, 2007
11:55 PM

You can drop me a line if you need any help with uploading pictures. Just reply over the email you'd have received when this post was published.

- Editor

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