Khokar’s Bharatanatyam is definitely worth a read
It is not easy to write a book on classical dance anymore. Most of the past history has already been recorded and has been replayed ad infinitum. And the new generation of dance participants – dancers and audiences – are seeking contemporary insights into the dance. Hagiographies and haloed histories are today casually consigned to gather dust on the library shelves of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Given this revised milieu, Ashish Mohan Khokar’s 80-page book entitled “Bharatanatyam” published by Rupa & Co at the highly affordable price of Rs. 395 (a relief from the four-digit prices that are the order of the day!) is definitely worth a read and deserves a prominent place on the book shelves of the dance community, and indeed of everyone else who wishes to be informed about a wonderful dance discipline of contemporary India.
Khokar is highly respectful of the history of the dance – as he should be. His mother, the redoubtable M.K. Saroja, was perched at that momentous time in the history of the dance when it transcended itself from societal ignominy to the wondrous arena of performance. His father (the late) Mohan Khokar was India’s only serious collector of dance memorablia. Yet Ashish is not overtly bogged down by history, either personal or of the dance itself. Keenly aware that his audience profile is changing, this then is a hip book on a classical dance and makes sharp and pithy comments on the art form as it is today; his incisive comments on dancers is caustic and critical. You may love it or hate it, but Ashish’s book moves dance writing to generation next!
Ashish has been successful with the book because he wears two lenses while scanning the dance. His long vision lens gives him ample scope to provide a radical overview. The other is the microscopic lens where he puts contemporary practitioners through his personal scanner. The book’s chapters are planned with rhythmic precision: History, Heritage, Histrionics, Pioneers, Prodigals, Prima Donnas, Talents, Trailblazers and Tailend. This simple structure of HHH, PPP, TTT, enables the author to say whatever he has to say without being didactic or heretic. The brief bios of the dancers go beyond being publicity blurbs for them and are replete with historical references and well- researched facts. Good value for money!