Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas: 'Person who narrates a story is a Kathakar and I'm a Kathakar... I narrate stories'

Aditi Mangaldas addresses taboos attached to female sexuality through her solo performance

Manasi Y MastakarUpdated: Saturday, December 03, 2022, 08:57 PM IST
Pic: Von Fox Promotions

Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas is all set to take the audience on an interesting journey with her exuberant solo performance called Forbidden, that will be held at the NCPA, Mumbai today. With Forbidden, Aditi aims to address and confront taboos attached to female sexuality. Aditi gives a contemporary spin to Kathak for this performance. The premiere of the show was stalled for almost three years due to the pandemic. Before she mesmerises the audience with her performance, The Free Press Journal speaks to her about the show, using dance as a medium to address societal issues, and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about the concept of Forbidden.  

Forbidden is essentially about asking a taboo, yet an important, question: Why is the world scared of female sexual desire? Why is it that the world over — from conservative to liberal societies — women who dare to own their desire, have been labelled, condemned, controlled, judged, shamed, and, eventually, punished? To have that courage and to say no desire is something that should be my prerogative.  The idea has been on my mind for a while. Many women are denied this fundamental human need. You can see it in mythology across the world, popular culture, stories, movies, images… How they keep reinforcing that women somehow cannot have the possibility of owning their desire.

What exactly is Forbidden?

In my viewpoint, Forbidden is a multi-layered production. It's, of course, to do with dance and everything that we've read and imbibed; as a woman. It's about the choreography, light design, and music and there are layers and many nuances to Forbidden. It is going through the entire narrative of how women go through many states of being and eventually owning the desire. All collaborators who have come together have put their best foot forward.

Kathak or classical dance has defined rules. What challenges did you face while preparing for this performance?

Any classical dance form has a certain format and structure. But Forbidden is a contemporary dance based on Kathak. It’s like planting the seed of Kathak and then watering it with contemporary sensibilities, thought processes, movement possibilities… I have trained in various forms of movement to be able to pour that into this seed of Kathak. And, hopefully, a different kind of forbidden tree will grow out of that.

When you prepare for any performance, there are always challenges. Here it is such a taboo and personal subject. Sexuality is private but the taboos attached to female sexuality require and demand taking a stand on the universal, public and personal front. This is something that I decided early into the production that we have to take a stand as artists and share stories that consume us.

Pic: Von Fox Promotions

How easy or difficult is it to put up a performance that addresses societal issues?

To put up any performance, it's not about how easy or how difficult it is. Whatever issues you take up, there are always going to be challenges and they are going to be great rewards and fruits in the end. Art has to live, has to breathe the air of today. It has to be a lived and a living experience.

How can dance be used to address taboo subjects?

I communicate and share stories the best I can through the movement of the body, the mind, and the heart. And that is what dance is. If I have to narrate a story or talk about something, dance is the closest language to my heart. If you want to share something through the medium of your work, you have to be courageous to do it, however challenging or not challenging it is.

What changes have you seen in Kathak and Indian Classical dance in general?

Tradition and classical arts are like a flowing river. They are constantly evolving and absorbing the environment. This amazing river, the heritage is not fossilised. It's constantly flowing through valleys, mountains and maybe through cities. And, as this river of Kathak flows, it imbibes from its surrounding. This is what makes it richer. Everything, of course, evolves; otherwise, it should be in a museum. But we are not museum pieces. Dance is a living art form and to let it be truly living it has to be relevant today.

Almost every Indian classical dance form is used to convey some story. What stories are you trying to convey through your dance?

Katha kahey, so Kathak. A person who narrates a story is a Kathakar and I'm a Kathakar... I narrate stories. Kathak is an old tradition that has come from temples to courts. Went into small principalities and kothas during the British. Then was completely revived for the proscenium stage... so many life stories it has gone through. I'm a narrator of stories, but stories have changed. I'm a contemporary woman, living today. Therefore, the stories that I want to share, that I'm consumed by, have to have relevance today.

Pic: Von Fox Promotions

What drives you? 

Life drives me. Each one of us on this planet has this amazing possibility of living, of imagination. Each one of us, in our way, has to completely be immersed in it with passion, abundance, and honesty.

How can women overcome the stigma attached to female sexuality? 

My little contribution is a tiny one in this whole sea of control, punishment, and shame… It's not something that can be eradicated. But we all have to have the intention of doing it. Each of us, in our way. Each of us has to walk the talk and must have the courage to face these taboos and stigmas.

What are you working on next? 

I'm excited about the next project, which is called Mehek (working title) with the young and amazing British dancer-choreographer, Aakash Odedra. It's a love story between a mature woman, which is me, and a young man, which is Aakash. But with Forbidden, we have a long way to go. We are looking forward to taking it to Sadler’s Wells in London, to the Esplanade in Singapore, many other places in Europe and maybe to the US. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it can touch even one person in the audience and for this concept to resonate with that one person.

(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )

(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here.  To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)


From search and rescue ops to guarding the longest and busiest coastline in the world, meet the...

From search and rescue ops to guarding the longest and busiest coastline in the world, meet the...

Joy Bimal Roy: "I had to be careful not to hurt anyone’s sentiments since the saris had...

Joy Bimal Roy:

Here's why vitamin D3 and B12 deficiencies are called silent epidemics

Here's why vitamin D3 and B12 deficiencies are called silent epidemics

Meera Gandhi says, "Idea is to make more and more people happy"

Meera Gandhi says,

Mumbai's The Burrow offers delectable dishes along with solitude for a good time

Mumbai's The Burrow offers delectable dishes along with solitude for a good time