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The impact of songs in series like Heeramandi on Kathak artistes
- Shruti Patki

May 23, 2024

Popular series like Heeramandi have a significant impact on Kathak artistes. While these shows spark interest in our beautiful dance form, they also create misconceptions and challenges. The sudden influx of beginners seeking quick lessons and the undervaluing of years of dedicated practice are just a few of the issues we face. Let's explore these challenges and gain a deeper appreciation for true dedication behind Kathak.

1. Influx of inquiries from inexperienced students
When a popular series like Heeramandi features a song with Kathak, it often leads to a sudden surge in inquiries from people wanting to learn Kathak specifically to perform that song. However, many of these prospective students have no prior experience or foundational knowledge in Kathak. This trend can be challenging for seasoned artistes as they have to manage expectations and explain the basics to those who might not understand the complexity and dedication required for this classical dance form.

2. Misconceptions about Kathak's accessibility
Kathak, a classical Indian dance form, is often perceived as more accessible because of its lokadharmi nature, which means it incorporates movements that are closer to natural human gestures. However, this misconception leads people to believe that Kathak is easier to learn compared to other classical dance styles. In reality, mastering Kathak requires rigorous training and daily practice, often spanning over decades. Artistes, who have dedicated over 20 years to learning and refining this art, find it frustrating when the depth and difficulty of Kathak are underestimated.

3. Demotivation due to casting practices
The entertainment industry's tendency to cast actors for lead dance roles, who then undergo a few months of training, can be highly demotivating for dedicated Kathak artistes. Despite their years of training and proficiency, these artistes see their efforts overshadowed by actors who may deliver only mediocre performances after a brief training period. This practice undermines the value of true expertise and can be disheartening for those who have dedicated their lives to the art of Kathak.

4. Undermining the efforts of Kathak practitioners
The sudden demand for "crash courses" and "choreographies" from Kathak teachers after the release of a popular song leads to a misunderstanding about the nature of learning Kathak. Many people start to think that Kathak can be learned in a matter of weeks or months. This notion significantly undermines the efforts of Kathak practitioners and exponents who strive to propagate the true essence of Kathak. Learning Kathak is a lifelong journey, and the idea that it can be mastered quickly diminishes the dedication and hard work of countless Kathak artistes.

To summarise, the popularity of Kathak in media like Heeramandi brings both positive and negative attention. While it raises interest in the dance form, it also brings a host of misconceptions and challenges that seasoned artistes have to navigate. The influx of inquiries from inexperienced students, the misperception of Kathak's accessibility, the demotivation from casting practices, and the undermining of efforts to propagate Kathak are significant issues that need to be addressed to preserve the integrity and appreciation of this classical art form.

Shruti Patki
Shruti Patki, a disciple of Pt Rajendra Gangani and Swati Sinha of the Jaipur gharana, began her Kathak journey at age 7 under the mentorship of Guru Shambhavi Dandekar. She earned Nritya Visharad and Nritya Alankar with all-India rank 1, and a master's degree in performing arts from the University of Pune, receiving the Pandita Rohini Bhate Gold Medal.

Well said, Shruti! I m a Bharatanatyam dancer from Chennai but the feeling is absolutely valid! The apparent easy accessibility to an art form which one can actually attain only after decades of practice is the issue here. Thanks for penning it down.
- Uma Sathyanarayanan (June 7, 2024)

An extremely thought-provoking article...congrats, Shruti. It's the need of this hour to raise awareness about the subject of Kathak choreography or crash courses. The artistes are undoubtedly devoting decades to mastering this exquisite art form.
- Swati Potulwar (May 26, 2024)

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