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Art requires sadhana and tapasya
- Madhur Gupta

December 10, 2019

Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee (Kathak) for the year 2017, Dr. Shobha Koser has been a catalyst in promotion of Indian arts and culture at large. An exponent of the Jaipur Gharana, she has been a prime disciple of the stalwart late Guru Kundan Lal Gangani, learning from him several gems which the Jaipur style of Kathak is famous for. Zest for teaching and imparting these age old traditions at heart, Shobha Koser has been actively involved for decades in rendering arts education through her renowned institution Pracheen Kala Kendra in Chandigarh.

A doctorate in dance from Punjab University, we interact with Shobha Koser at length about her artistic journey, her will to propagate arts, and what it takes to be an artist.

Your foray into the world of dance...
I must credit my mother who had a beautifully artistic bent of mind. She was the one who initially took the pains of finding right teachers for me, did their seva, just so her daughter can receive the best of training from childhood. My first guru was Kanhaiya Lal (we used to call him Masterji as Guruji is a contemporary trend), who himself was a senior disciple of late Guru Narayan Prasad. All throughout my school and even college days I got guidance from him. Since we were based in Agra, I also represented the state at many levels and brought accolades. Only after my marriage to Madan Lal Koser did I come to Delhi and joined Kathak Kendra. At that time, Guru Kundan Lal Gangani was at the gaddi and so began my polishing under him.

Since you represent the Jaipur gharana of Kathak, please share its speciality.
It is a well-known fact that Kathakars of Marwar region were under the patronage of Rajput Hindu kings. Thus, the element of bhakti and veer rasa are predominant in the style. There are innumerable parans, toras, tukras dedicated to deities like Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Durga and so on. The technical aspect also is very different; it has long pieces of layakari. And even in those technical pieces, the veer bhava is imminent. Also what makes Jaipur different from other houses of Kathak is the treatment of shringara. With minimalistic nayaka-nayaki bhava, the emphasis is on the eternal love. Radha-Krishna, Rama-Sita, Shiva-Parvati are often eloquent themes prevalent in the style.

Please share with us any anecdote you might remember from your student days.
See, our gurus never complimented us, even if we ousted ourselves. But yes, I must share with you that the gentle touch with which Kundan Lalji used to touch my head and say 'Jiyo!' was proof enough that he was happy with me and that's all I wanted. Also, since I was a pretty sincere student, there isn't any instance when I was reprimanded by either of my gurus. So in a way, my student days were full of peace, quietude, and immense amount of riyaaz under the watchful eyes of my gurus.

How difficult or easy is it for women to focus on their dance career post marriage?
To be honest, it's a daunting task. Managing two lives which demand absolute dedication and devotion can get a bit tiring. But I was very lucky in the sense that I was married to Madan Lal Koser who himself was an artist of repute, an institution builder, an arts propagator, and my biggest critic! He was in many senses the wind beneath my wings. Once it so happened that I hadn't done my riyaaz for the day and was busy with cooking for the household; he got so upset that I had to leave everything as it was and practice.

Advice to younger generation of artists....
I will reiterate what the greats before me have said: Art is not an easy job! It requires sadhana and tapasya and immense amount of dedication from the practitioner. It does not come easy. But having said that, any vidya, once gained also stays with one for a lifetime. Look at me; I am still dancing in my late 70s! So for all upcoming artistes I would like to request that they think before just doing, and become intelligent artistes!


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