Wednesday, May 11, 2016



INDU MITHA ( Born 1929 )

“ Dance is a feeling and a beautiful sensation that springs from the soul. Can you stop it ? We danced our way under the shadows of so many Threats. We danced with curtains pulled and lights switched off .” 

Says Indu Mitha the only Bharatnatyam Dancer in Pakistan who single handedly ensured survival of this Form of Dance in that country ..

Indu Mitha , Bharatnatyam Dance and Pakistan ;Sounds strange . Appears Not True ! You raise your eyebrows.

And she danced under candle lights when the then government under General Zia Ul Haq acted with heavy hand on Artists in the fields of Music , Classical Dance and Cinema . And during those days , poet Faiz had to move out and live as exile .

 Art in itself is a celebration of Human Existence . It is a river that brings Greenery and life.You have a choice ; Make this planet a desert and suffer or bring life and Greenery and live happily .

When Classical Dance became a Victim of Government Repression In that Country , Guru Jaykar Ganshyam and his wife Neelima closed their karachi based Classical Dancing school . They left Pakistan in 1980 .Guru Ganshyam taught dance to Sheema Kirmani renowned Pakistani classical Dancer. Sheema heads her dance and theatre troupe Tehrik-e-Niswan (Women's Movement). She enthralls her audience with Kathak , Odissi or Bhartanatyam performed even on Poetry of Faiz Ahmed feel thrilled to see her dancing on " INTESAAB " a poem that Faiz had dedicated to Rickshawallahs , Clerks, Toiling workers and Weeping mothers of his country . Surely the Pakistani dancers have deconstructed the dance in that country to tailor it to the cultural ethos and bring it to a creative form that can easily go well with their audiences within. Sheema Kirmani , Farha Yasmeen Sheikh, Amna Mawaz , Farrukh Darbar , Munawar Chao and so many others are well known names in classical Dance in that country presently.

Then we also know about Maharaj Ghulam Hussain kathak ( 1905-2001 ) of Pakistan who taught Kathak to some renowned dancers of Pakistan like Nahid Siddiqui, Fasih Ur Rehman and Nighat Chowdhary .Maharaj Ghulam Hussain was trained by Achhan Maharaj father of Lachhu Maharaj of India.

Indu ji Lives in Islamabad. She has an old attachment with Lahore where her father Prof. Gyanesh Chandra Chatterjee taught Philosophy at Government Degree College . After the Partition riots broke in Lahore , this Bengali Christian family moved to Delhi in 1947. She Learnt Bharatanatyam In Delhi ( Kalakshetra style ) from a disciple of Rukmani Devi. She fell in love with Abu Baker Mitha ( Memon ) from Bombay and married him much against the wishes of her family . When her husband moved to Pakistan in early Fifties of the last century , she also joined him . Abu Baker joined Pakistan Army and rose to become a Major General. He was bumped out by the then rulers  after  Pakistan’s defeat in 1971 war  with India . He  died in 2000..

Indu ji is Great Grand Daughter of the priest of kalibari Temple of Kolkatta who converted to Christianity  She did MA (Philosophy) from Delhi University in 1951, and taught at the Government College for Women, Rawalpindi after moving to Pakistan.

She also learnt Dance and Music from Guru Jayakar Ganshayam when her husband was posted at karachi. After her marriage , she visited India and stayed for about one year over here on an ICCR scholarship during which period she trained herself in Odissi . Back in pakistan she took upon herself the challenge to train women and girls in Bhartanatyam and odissi. To suit Pakistan’s cultural ethos , she did some minor modifications in these dances .

Her efforts from the beginning were to modify mythological content of the dances so that they become stories about ordinary human beings that do not clash with the religious beliefs of audiences or even students. The only Dance that she has performed and taught without interpreting is " Natanam Adinaar ", the dance of Shiva, “Because when my girls go abroad and pursue dance, the Indian girls should not think they have not learnt the real Bharatanatyam.”

I quote from Maneesha Tikekar’s book “ An Indian’s Sojourn in Pakistan .. ACROSS THE WAGAH BORDER “

“One day I saw Indu ji’s disciples performing at Islamabad Club auditorium.The small auditorium was jam packed . late comers had no place to enter .It appeared that entire elite of islamabad were at the Auditorium.Fashionable women had found a rare opportunity to air their sarees. Indu ji’s disciples performed pure dance forms like ALLARIPU , JATISWARAM, TILLANA and VARANAM. The whole ambience was dance and music .I too wondered if I were inside shanmukhnanad hall Mumbai or at Islamabad . It was a unique opportunity to witness ARANGRETAM in Pakistan.I felt surprised that they did not make mention of krishna by name instead they mentioned Maakhan chor . According to Indu ji , she has to make hundreds of compromises to keep Bharatnatyam alive in Pakistan.This is true. Though public dance performances are not banned currently in Pakistan, it is a challenge to keep dance alive. For this Sheema Kirmani uses Urdu , persian and english poetry in her odissi performances .She also uses Sufi poetry for GEET GOVINDAM and RADHA KRISHNA .”

" I believe that Bharatanaytam has a future the world over and will also survive in Pakistan. " 
she says optimistically.

Tehreem Mitha, her daughter is also a trained Bharatnatyam and Odissi dancer . Tehreem moved to USA and set up her own Bharatnatyam Dance Academy known as TMDA.

( Autar Mota )

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