Mother Devaki must be very happy.

Bharat S Tiwari


[article first published in the National Herald]

Her dance, Shivani Varma, now, has an extra delight of beautiful movements of eyes, showing the signs of the training that she is getting from India’s Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj.


When the world of arts talks about women in Krishna’s life, it will hardly include the biological mother, Devaki. It is mostly Yashodha-the foster-mother, Rukmini-the first wife, and Radha, the unrequited love. It was such a lovely Janmashtami gift to see noted Kathak dancer Shivani Varma bringing Devaki alive on stage, that I couldn’t help but say, “Devaki Maiya must be very happy today, blessing Shivani!” It is for her enactment that Devaki, probably, for the first time is shown in an abhinaya of Kathak!”.


The Kathak of Shivani, a disciple of Guru Shovana Narayan has always been different, adding contemporariness, keeping the audience enthralled. Her dance, now, has an extra delight of beautiful movements of eyes, showing the signs of the training that she is getting from India’s Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj. I overheard a lady, among the crowd that surrounded her after the performance, praising her, asking for her guru’s name. On knowing the answer, the lady gesturing her hand some 3 feet from the floor, said, “How nice! I have been seeing Shovana dance since she was a child.”


It is not easy to keep a house, full of dance lovers rapt, with a solo performance of 50 minutes but this young artist has been doing so repeatedly. About this, she says, that every time she is dancing loses completely awareness of herself, and feels the character that she is to portray. That, the only thing that she can feel during the performance, is the music and the lights.


Thanking her Guru, Shovana for teaching her the process of how to think about the very act of abhinaya – to place the texts in Kathak performance, how she could pick up the art of stagecraft and how to conduct and present herself on stage, Shivani explains how she spends her time in her every performance’s preparation.


For ‘Devaki’ she read the Srimad-Bhagavatam -- both the English and the Hindi translations – to understand the character thoroughly. Dr. Mohini Giri and Meera Khanna of the Guild for Service introduced her to noted Hindu scholar Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami, head priest of the Radha Ballab temple. She went to Vrindavan to learn more about Devaki from the Acharya.


The delight of a much loved 70 min performance, that included apart from ‘Devaki’, 10 minutes of ‘Vrindavan leela’ by young dancers : Aileena, Gayatri, Muskaan, Gauri, Daevi and Myra, and 20 minutes of ‘Draupadi’, was visible in the happiness of the entire team: Arshad Khan who composed the music and played Esraj, Imran Khan who gave voice, Lavanya on Sitar, Anurag who played Flute. The lighting, which mostly is not very easily doable in IIC’s multi-purpose hall, played a big role in the performance, all thanks to Nitin Jain. Yogesh Gangani and Mahaveer Gangani accompanied Shivani, dressed in a House of Kotwara beautiful red ensemble, respectively on Tabla and Pakhawaj.


Dance lovers do not miss Shivani Varma’s performances. She is one to watch out for.


The writer is an interior designer with a passion for photography and Hindustani literature and culture. Tweets at @BharatTiwari, Instagrams at @BharatTiwariPhotography  


All photos (c) Bharat S Tiwari.

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