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Success is never final to Sanjukta and failure never fatal
- Dr. S.D. Desai

June 5, 2017

Sanjukta Sinha of Kumudini Lakhia's Kadamb Centre for Dance and Music in Ahmedabad has been selected for Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in the Kathak dance category this year by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in appreciation of her noteworthy work in the form and the promise she holds out.

I guess on being selected for the 2017 Bismillah Khan award, you had an immediate connect with your guru mentally. What's so special about Guru Kumudini Lakhia?
My Guru Kumudini Lakhia is like a blessing to me from god. We share a very special bond and relationship according to guru shishya parampara. She is my guru, my mentor, my inspiration, my strength, my friend and like my family ... She is an epitome of knowledge, wisdom, grace and discipline. She has not only groomed me as a dancer but also as a person. I left my parents and home at a very young age to be with Kumiben and she accepted me as not just a student but like her own child. She is an extremely powerful person and at the same time fun-loving ... I have never seen such an active person at the age of 87. She is unique and special and I see her evolve and grow every day even now, which pushes me to be a hardworking student, a fearless performer and an efficient teacher.

Within a couple of days of the announcement of the award, you rushed to Lucknow. What was it that beckoned to you?
Actually, I visit my parents once a year for a couple of days during my summer vacation but this time it so happened that the day I reached Lucknow (my hometown) I got this news!! So I was lucky to be around my family.

You came to Kadamb after your initial training in Lucknow. What were you looking for?

I had my initial training under late Pt. Arjun Mishra in Lucknow. He was a very talented and hard-working guru. I learned a lot under his guidance but in course of time I realized I was made for something more than what I was doing. I had an urge to explore more than just the technique. I wanted to go into the depth of the subject and acquire more knowledge of the form. I had too many questions in my mind that remained unsolved. I wanted my own language and vocabulary. I was a dancer and I wanted to be an artist.

With your training at Kadamb what, do you think, have been your perceptible gains as a dancer?
The first thing I learned was discipline. I was trained as a soloist, so when I was put in a group I realized how much precision and synchronization it takes to be a part of group choreography. I learned the skills of execution on stage. At times we are not trained to separate classroom training and stage performance. It's such an important factor. Aesthetics is what I learned at Kadamb along with perfection and finishing.

Your energetic strides and flying leaps across the stage have been viewers' delight. You give glimpses of rich reserves of expression you are capable of when you turn still and your visage shows signs of looking inward. What gives you greater pleasure?
Both have their own importance and qualities. I am a mix of both. I enjoy executing the fast technique as well as the stillness and control. I believe dance is a journey of body, mind and soul.

A longing to be one with the universal spirit is a natural portrayal in response to Sufi music. Is there a conscious effort to highlight this element even in your lyrical duets?
Well, I have always been fond of the Mughal aspect of Kathak, maybe because I was born and raised in Lucknow! I personally prefer to portray or perform the divine and spiritual aspect of love and longing. I really connect well with ghazals and Sufi music or something that is abstract and has more of an inner exploration.

What specific goals are you setting your eyes on now when you continue your sadhana?
I don't plan much beforehand. I believe in spontaneity and living the present moment - because I feel that's what shapes our future! I do have goals but each day is a new day, a new beginning and a new task for me and that's what keeps me going and motivates me to get better and better every single day.

You are known to train teenagers at Kadamb who prefer to come to you. How do you manage to control a likely pull of easy success for them?

A recent development in me over a couple of years is that I want to inspire the generation next and make them more passionate about the art form. I believe art can grow and nurture only when it is shared and passed on. So what could be better than teaching the younger lot not just to be good performers but to be passionate about what they do, to grow into sensible and sensitive performers? I believe, and also want the young learners to understand, that success is never final and failure never fatal. It's courage that counts.

In recent months, you gave special performances in the US, UK and France. Can you briefly give details.
I feel blessed to be able to perform in the best of the theaters across the world. It has been a lifetime experience. Last month I performed at the Symphony Space theatre in New York Broadway. I was also privileged to work with the Royal Opera House, London, where I got an experience of working with more than a hundred live musicians on stage. We performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Curve Theatre in Leicester, Symphony Hall in Birmingham and the Lowry Theatre in Manchester.

Prashant Shah at Kadamb received the first Bismillah Khan award. Now it comes to you. There must be something of a celebration for it!
Yes, I feel extremely happy and, at the same time, it gives me a sense of responsibility towards my art form. I don't base my success upon my feelings or upon the accolades I receive. I rather choose to live a happy life filled with successful habits, successful actions, successful words and successful relationships. I will share the joy of this award with my near and dear ones and simultaneously prepare myself to start a new journey with more and more hard work and greater focus.

Dr. S.D. Desai, a professor of English, has been a Performing Arts Critic for many years. Among the dance journals he has contributed to are Narthaki, Sruti, Nartanam and Attendance. His books have been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy, Oxford University Press and Rupa. After 30 years with a national English daily, he is now a freelance art writer.

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