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Bhavna Pani: Rise above all labels and just be
- Nainika Mukherjee

April 12, 2023

Bhavna Pani

Bhavna Pani is an accomplished Odissi dancer and a film and theatre actress based in Mumbai. She is the disciple of Guru Jhelum Paranjape. She started training in Odissi under Guru Ravindra Atibudhi at the Nalanda Dance Research Centre, Juhu. Alongside her training under the tutelage of Jhelum Paranjape, Bhavna attended multiple residency intensive workshops with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Bhavna also trained in Kathak dance under Guru Neelima Azeem, a well-known disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj.

What is interesting to note is that Jhelum Paranjape is also a mathematics professor, thus attributing to the perfect and precise geometrical alignments and formations in her choreographies. As a dedicated disciple, Bhavna's recitals and performances always have and continue to reflect the same precision and meticulousness in her hand gestures and body language as her Guru's. Such a level of detailing is rare, yet delightful to see in today's dancers.

Bhavna Pani

Since the tender age of six years, she started performing professionally and soon became a young recipient of the CCRT scholarship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. A Sringar Mani awardee, Bhavna has also trained extensively in other dance forms, namely Kathak, Contemporary dance and Jazz-Ballet. She completed her Diploma in Contemporary Dance from the Terrence Lewis Dance Academy and worked in the company as well. Bhavna's choreographic works showcase the significant influence of her training and mentorship under Terence Lewis.

On the acting front, Bhavna Pani has worked in more than 14 feature films as the lead actress and featured in over 75 television commercials. Despite being at the peak of her career in the film and television industry, she showed up at a nationwide audition with over 6000 dancers, actresses, and artists and starred in the title role of an international stage musical called 'Bharati - The Wonder That Is India' - which is also India's first Broadway style stage musical. This extravagant stage musical featured an ensemble of over 100 Indian performing artistes (actors, dancers, singers alike), martial artists and acrobats.

Bhavna Pani - Bharati

The story of Bharati is of a wonder (i.e. India) that highlights Indian culture, heritage dance forms, and the varieties of geo-cultural peculiarities. With the theme of a love story in the backdrop, this musical features Bollywood songs choreographed by multiple renowned dance choreographers from the industry, such as Remo D'Souza, Jojo Khan, Pony Verma, Raju Sundaram, and Ganesh Acharya. Currently, Bharati has been premiering for over a decade, with over 1500 shows successfully running in more than 15 countries, earning rave reviews and global fanfare.

She won the META award 2014 for QTP's 'So Many Socks' directed by Quasar Padamsee. She has been a part of various productions of the AGP World in the past, including 'Devdas - The Musical,' which has received critical praise and applause from eminent personalities in the film and theatre industry. Bhavna Pani has gained accolades for her stage work with one of the finest actors in the film and theatre industry, Naseeruddin Shah, in two of Motley Theatre Group's (his theatre company) productions titled 'Aurat, Aurat, Aurat' and 'The Father.'

Bhavna Pani with Naseeruddin Shah
With Naseeruddin Shah

With an experience of over two decades in dance and theatre and having refined her skillset as an artiste with every achievement, Bhavna Pani founded and established her dance-theatre company, known as 'Just B Repertory' in January 2020, whilst performing and teaching Odissi and extensively touring across national and international borders. One of the projects under her company that made its way to the stage was 'Water Games' - a collaboration with Michel Casanovas, a French dancer-choreographer from South France.

Bhavna Pani has several upcoming projects and visions besides her Odissi recitals. Currently, she wishes to reignite a production with the concept of "marrying the vocabulary of Odissi with contemporary dance" which dates back to 2019. "We were supposed to premiere this piece on June 5, 2019, but the pandemic hit us badly. Therefore, it has reached its nascent stage again. Nevertheless, I am motivated to bring it back because these are the two loves of my life - contemporary dance and Odissi dance!"

A skilled, multifaceted and contemplative artist, Bhavna Pani has and continues to achieve great heights with her grit, determination and relentless efforts across all art forms and disciplines. She has constantly and consistently proved her mettle and versatility as a dancer, choreographer, and actress. Her upcoming projects inspire everyone to "just be" - a profound motto that resounds and resonates with the artistes and people of today.

Nainika Mukherjee
Nainika Mukherjee is a Kathak dancer and an arts-based writer, who's currently pursuing her Masters in Psychology alongside her Diploma in Dance Movement Therapy from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

A well constructed piece, with flair and depth. This new writer on dance has skill, craft and art. It is nice to read good English with expressions and dance descriptions without being vague or general. I look forward to reading more articles by this budding writer, who has the potential of becoming a known name in the field of dance.
- Ashish Khokar (April 14, 2023)

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