Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tradition is out of fashion, says Shobana

“When did I say I will not act in Malayalam?” asks Shobana, days before she is to perform her two-and-a-half hour performance on Krishna at JTPac in Kochi.

That must be music to the ears of filmmakers as well as film lovers in Kerala who have been missing her since the early 90s when she started concentrating on dance, accepting only one film per year or none at all.

“But the TV channels have been playing my films all the time,” she says, with a laugh.

Her favourites? “Yathra, Thenmavin Kombathu and that Jayaram film…” Is I>Manichithrathazhu, in which she played a schizophrenic caught between the past and present and won the national award, not in the list?

“Unlike dance, films are a collaborative effort. I was young while Pachikka (director Fazil) and others perhaps knew they were making a classic. Mohan Lal and Suresh Gopi supported me well.”
The actress, who has her roots in Thiruvananthapuram dispels the impression that she is in some kind of a self-imposed exile in Chennai.

“You make it sound as though I am living in America. I come to Kerala four times a year for my performances. My relatives keep visiting me and I visit them too. I have Malayalis among the staff here (in her dance school) and I remain a Malayali in mind and spirit.”

She recently completed her work in a Tamil film Poda Podi where she plays, what else, a dancer.

She is excited as she talks about the forthcoming show in Kochi.

“Bharatanatyam is always about God but being a performer, it is story telling that is more important than the religious aspect. Krishna is an international icon. I took him because there were a lot of questions about him in my mind. These questions formed over the years while listening to the bhajans, Geetha Govindam or kathaprasangams. There is the butter and clothes stealing Krishna and then there is the sensual aspect. So, this performance is the product of my attempt to write a story with different aspects in mind.”

One of the aspects she tries to throw light on is that of Krishna as a negotiator. “Most people comment on how beautiful it is and how colourful the costumes are. But I don’t know how far people understand the nuances.

For instance, I have touched upon how Krishna is a lover of peace throughout Mahabharata. When he comes to negotiate with the Kauravas, people expect him to come with his entire army and other regalia. But he arrives without any of that, accompanied only by Garuda.

” The sound design of the show is by Resul Pookutty while the voice overs for the characters are by Surya, Shabana Azmi, Prabhu, Radhika, Konkona Sen and Nandita Das. Is her style puritan or experimental? “Innovation is tomorrow’s tradition.

It is no longer in fashion to be traditional. Tradition is what your teachers taught you. If you ask about this particular performance, it is not a classical dance but can be called a classic,” she signs off.