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Behind the Scenes - PRAYOG 3 by Nritarutya
- Sujay Shastry

December 30, 2007

Another wake-up-and-lick-your-wounds-morning. I shake my body and feel like an old lion. An abundance of Iodex spray and a meditative ride on my Bullet transport me to a Prayog-3 rehearsal in a woody part of Bangalore. Here I'm suspended from a tree and ordered to dangle my legs in strange ways. Soon a new set of bruises are doing the round of introductions; later Mayuri is satisfied with the proceedings and we move to a studio where the rest of the Nritarutya troupe awaits us for the day's practice. The smell of pain relief spray is in the air. I forget my own niggles when I see Geetha and the other injured gritting their teeth and carrying on. The hours pass. The dancers break for what they call lunch: half an orange and such rations. When I share half my Snickers bar with them, they think I am a messiah.

What am I doing here?
I am here with Nritarutya shooting Prayog-3 rehearsals ever since Madhuri asked me if I could do it few weeks ago. In due course I have been spotted perched at various heights trying to find my favorite shots. And the Nritarutya women, being their resourceful selves have decided they have found their backup dancer in me: one that will be suspended from the ceiling and made to dangle his legs. So now in addition to shooting, I dance, dangle and share snacks with the Nritarutya gang.

Behind the camera
I can't help being impressed with the athleticism of the dancers. They are supple and their movements powerful. They are nimble and noiseless as they flow over the hard practice floor. I work hard to capture some of their energy with my camera.

It's a people-photographer's ideal hunting ground as there's a gamut of emotions on display in the hours that pass. The choreographers are demanding, they accept nothing but the best from their dancers. The dancers work hard uncomplaining, usually. Sometimes, exasperation shows. Sometimes there's anger. But these are short lived because it seems that everyone here has the same goal: perfection. At other times, there is laughter and playful banter. There are so many interesting situations I can see from behind the lens that I sometimes don't know what to shoot.

My dance debut
As the days pass, my responsibilities increase. After being hung from the ceiling I have some ground work allotted to me. There are other bits and parts that they want me to perform. As I become a regular performing member of the practice sessions, the spirit of the event catches on. The feeling of a common goal is addictive and energizing.

The interviews
As we are near the date of the show I find myself helping my friend Padmanabh in making small videos that will be shown before each of the three planned pieces at the show. We are interviewing the choreographers Madhuri, Mayuri and Sathya.

We sit in Mayuri's chic apartment and record the interviews over cups of coffee. The choreographers, initially a little self-conscious in front of the camera, slowly open up and in due course are talking freely about the inspiration behind their compositions. The interviews turn into discussions as the ideas unravel and are dissected further. The compositions seem to reflect the personality of the choreographers. Madhuri's piece reflects her background in fine arts and Mayuri's seems to reflect her love for animals. Satya's piece is about male energy. Sathya is 35 and looks like a college student, so it kind of makes sense to me how his piece is all about energy.

As we pack up for the day, the dances that I have seen all this while seem to make more sense to me. They seem to have more soul and personality. I'm eager to try and capture this new dimension in my photography.

The next practice session is a crazy event as it is a run-through of the complete composition. I run from camera to stage to ceiling to my bottle of pain relief spray. For a moment I'm lost but soon I'm part of the big momentum as sound of the music hits my ear.

Sujay Shastry is the photographer documenting Prayog.

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