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Narendra Sharma (1924 - 2008)
- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore

January 19, 2008

Born on Sept 21, 1924 in Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh, an essentially agrarian belt, this unusual talent ran away from home as a youth to enroll at Uday Shankar's Almora Centre, where under his teacher Zohra Segal, he flowered into a handsome dance talent.

When the Uday Shankar center broke up, he, like many other of its students were rendered in the real world which brought him to Bombay and its nascent film world, where he came under the influence of the IPTA movement and thus gained a foothold in the intellectual world of theatre, nationalist movement and dance choreography.

Narendra Sharma with Sachin Shankar, a nephew of Uday Shankar, both teamed up in Bombay to create the first choreographic productions under Pt Ravi Shankar which soon gave him an insight into bigger productions which he did once he moved to Delhi.

In Delhi, he joined the Bharatiya Kala Kendra of Sumitra Charatram and helped her create the Ramlila, an everlasting work polished by the legendary Guru Gopinath. Sharma slowly established his credentials with Ramlila and served the Kendra and also joined the Modern School as hobby teacher.

Modern School brought him in touch with many important and useful people, politicians, talents and parents and in 1972 he created Bhoomika, a new ballet company which premiered The Wolf Boy in 1976 at the First National Ballet Festival organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi under Mohan Khokar. The rest as they say, is history, because his son Bharat, The Wolf Boy, made a mark on the dance-scene with this touching tale of human and animal world, penned by Oscar Wilde.

Narendra Sharma went on to search for "a new direction in Indian dance" and can truly be called a pioneer, much before the Chandralekhas and Kumudini Lakhias came on the choreographic scene a decade later (1984, at the First East West Encounter). He was a visionary for he saw the classical forms not truly serving contemporary issues and he created an ensemble-work which soon others were to emulate.

He was always supported by his wife, herself a dancing talent of yore, who stood like a rock behind him and managed practical things like costumes and the dance troupe. Sharma got grants from the govt., and also retired from Modern School to set up Bhoomika in trans-Jamuna area, initially run by his son who moved to Bangalore and later Hyderabad, where he now teaches. Not one to complain and always looking life in the face, senior Sharma ran his troupe like a true dance master and till his end, danced.

With his death on January 14, 2008, an important link with Uday Shankar, IPTA, Modern School and Bhoomika is lost forever. It is up to his inheritors what they do with what he leaves behind. Sharma has an assured place in dance history.

Ashish Mohan Khokar edits and publishes India's only yearbook on dance, attendance. An author of over 30 titles on arts and spirituality, former critic of Firstcity and Times of India, Delhi, his output and outreach is solid. Inheritor of India's biggest archives on dance, created by and called after his father the pioneering scholar Mohan Khokar, Ashish lives in Bangalore.
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