|HER WORLD||Sunday, April 11, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
Spirit of enterprise
maid to order
IF using creativity and conviction and showing courage in her beliefs, against all odds, to pursue the path of self-actualisation are the hallmarks of a woman of substance, then Ileana Citaristi comes out with flying colours. Move over Saroj Khan, Chinni Prakash, Farah Khan; Ileana Citaristi is here. What is the noted Odissi and Chau dancer who came from Italy and fell in love with Odissi to make Orissa her home,doing in the company of film choreographers, you may as well ask. The Italian who continues to have an enduring and passionate affair with Indian classical dance and India is a quality film choreographer too. She already has a National Award in her kitty. She is in the news again for her brilliant choreography in M.F. Husain's just-released Meenaxi—a tale of three cities. In an exclusive interview with Bibhuti Mishra, she talks about her forays into film choreography.
Being a classical Odissi dancer who has trained under the legendary Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, how did you turn to film choreography?
It was by chance. Aparna Sen was going to shoot in Orissa. Her film Yugantar had an Odissi dancer as her heroine , reacting to the socio-political turmoil. It was set in the period of the Gulf War.Dance critic Sunil Kothari had suggested my name to Aparna. That's how I got the offer and it went on to win the National Award in 1996.
What problems did you face initially?
I came up against heavy odds. The camera space was different from the stage for which I used to choreograph till then. Besides, the leading lady Rupa Ganguly was not a dancer and I had to compromise a lot in solo.For the group dance I took professional dancers. I knew two styles Odissi and Chhau and exploited their possibilities. Jyotishka Dasgupta's music was brilliant and I basically reacted to that. For me, choreography comes like that. I close my eyes and react to the music. Choreography has its own law of direction, spatial use, quality of movements that are dictated by music and concept.
After Yugantar, which won the National Award, there was a gap of six years; why? And how did you get Meenaxi?
It was not very strange that after the National Award there was no offer.. These things work on contacts and I was based not in Mumbai or Delhi but in Bhubaneswar and that was a deterrent. However, I had met ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan at the National Award ceremony and he turned a friend and admirer. But despite promises Ashoka did not come to me; may be he had his compulsions. However, Sivan remembered me when M.F. Husain started work for Meenaxi, for which he was the cinematographer. My name came up for the choreography of the opening qawwali. They wanted something to be based on Sufi but punched with acrobatics. I had thought of Chhau and Kathak as a combination. Owais Hussain contacted me in January, 2002 and the shooting was held in the middle of August in Hyderabad.
How was it working for Meenaxi
It was hectic but extremely satisfying. I learnt a great deal about cinematic tricks and strategies while working with Santosh who was wielding the camera.The impression of elevation and search for flying moments all this made dance take on a life of its own.I had taken four male dancers of Kathak and Chhau and two Kalaripayattu dancers too. A.R. Rehman has given music for that and my favourite is the qawwali. Owais gave all the support, moral and otherwise and his wife was a great help too.
You have also done the choreography with Tabu for Gautam Ghose's Abbar Arannye; how was the experience?
It was totally different.Whereas Meenaxi had all high-tech equipments Gautam's film was more earthy.It just took one week.Many things had to be remade on the spot.It was a dream scene and a piece of waltz. But it was no less enjoyable.
Have you evolved as a choreographer working in all these quality films?
Oh yes, I learnt slowly but surely. I have matured too. I know that as a choreographer what I produce may not find place in the final film in all its totality. However, one has to produce and forget. No sentimentality there. It is in the director's hands. However, I have decided that next time I do a film I shall put the condition that I have to be present at the time of editing, because I was in for a disappointment when I saw the final cut of Aparna's film.Many portions were edited felt they could have added to the story but Aparna felt otherwise. I have no say; it's the director's medium.
Has your being a Chhau dancer helped you as a choreographer?
I love bringing in innovations in the Mayurbhanj Chhau. It is an amazingly rich style that adapts to innovations and it has shaped by choreographic sensibilities too.Foreign sensibilities of mine have an Indian base too and it helps, making a heady dish like Italian spaghetti and Indian saag (green) that I love.
Can you now take on an out-and-out commercial film?
Why not?I don't know Kathak but I
still could handle it. My choreographic vocabulary, of course, would
be taken from my two styles i.e. Odissi and Chhau besides other
sources like martial dances and tribal dances that I have worked on.
Even if you do not give shape of any particular dance my twenty three
years' exposure to classical dance has given me all the attitudes,
aesthetics and rhythm to make it as a choreographer be it films or
theatre or stage.
longer maid to order
WITHOUT my maid I only half-exist and have no qualms about admitting that she is my crutch. My cheerfulness changes into a state of shrieking banshee-hood. My willingness to happily do extra cooking for the children or their friends gets reduced to a desire to give them only sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These are to be eaten on paper napkins to preserve clean dishes. The health-conscious insistence upon ‘clean, wholesome, home-cooked food’ turns into uncontrollable impulses to eat out whenever possible who cares about the money because the kitchen remains uncluttered?
I also lose out on female bonding and miss gems of philosophy such as: "Aurat ki kismat mein mardon ki sewa hi likhi hai- kabhi beti ban ke, kabhi biwi banke aur kabhi ma banke".
I also experience a sense of deprivation when local news is not forthcoming. Has Ms. Khanna’s daughter cleared the medical exams? Has the mataji next door finally bought the new fridge she wanted to? This casual chatter is shared while the mai sweeps and I dust. Add to this more salacious gossip, almost Page 3, shared over the elevenses (in a changed tone of voice that is more confidential.) Mr. Pathania gave Ms. Chawla a lift to the market in his car. That lady, three houses away, is finally pregnant after six years of marriage and the doctor has prescribed her bed-rest.
Not that I am interested`85Oh no. You couldn’t call me a gossip by any stretch of the imagination. But still, I feel that it’s my duty as a resident of the colony to know what’s happening. My lifeline to news gets disrupted, the same way when the paper is not delivered after Divali or Republic Day.
I also wanted Kanta to speak to Sumanthra about a mai for my friend, Usha. Usha’s mai has gone back to her village because their cluster of jhuggis was demolished. She asked me to ask Kanta to help her. Well, that’s one thing I’m certainly not going to do. The last time I shared my mai with my friend, I ended up losing my best friend and my mai and I still can’t decide which I regret more. Sumanthra is a sort of the head-honcho of mais in the locality. You could call her a kind of unofficial labour-coordinator and a sorter-out-of-grievances between the mistresses and their maids. If any bibiji needs a maid, she has only to contact Sumanthra with her requirements of time and the work-profile of the required maid. Sumanthra will scout around and within a couple of days come up with a likely candidate to fit the bill. God knows what she gets out of it, probably the ego-kick of being the local godmother. But anyway, neither any bibiji nor any mai dare pass by her perch in the local playground without a salaam which is graciously acknowleged.
With mais one has to be careful about spelling out the work that they are expected to do right from the start. Especially where there are more than one mai , a division of labour right in the beginning becomes desirable, if not mandatory. Why, at one time I had three mais working for me—one for the clothes, one to do the dishes and one for cleaning the house. And can you believe it, it was I who ended up having to throw out the kachra simply because I hadn’t spelt out who would actually be doing it.
Anyway, this Kanta female is taking
too many vacations. It’s OK the first day, I mean, one can manage
the work. The second day becomes a bit much to handle and the third
day one begins wonders about what the outside world looks like? One
swears vengeance upon the ungrateful mai`85how dares she treat
one this way? There is no way she’s going to continue employment in
ones house at least. Just let her come and face ones wrath. And on the
fourth day, when one drags oneself out to open the gate and start yet
another day of drudgery, there is suddenly, sunshine! The mai is
back. One hasn’t seen such a beautiful sight in ones recent years at
least. One greets her like a long-lost friend, asks solicitously about
her family and then goes in to make a big breakfast for the family
members who have been complaining that they are a bit tired of bread.
All women-oriented serials, even if they portray the new age woman, end up making a mockery of ideals of freedom and modernisation, says Narender Jit Kaur
DESPITE all advancement in various spheres what is of concern is 'the final product' or the image of the 'woman of the new millennium' that has emerged. Was this the woman that the feminist movement had aimed at producing? Was this the freedom that the writers of the movement wanted to provide, which the new woman seems to enjoy today?
A cursory look at our TV serials gives the impression that women are centrestage and we consider that quite an achievement. Let's zero in on some of the most popular serials directed and produced by women themselves, like Ekta Kapoor and Aruna Irani and see the type of woman they are projecting.
Silk-clad, jewellery-laden and with heavily made-up faces, these saas-bahu clans enjoy comfortable lives provided by affluent hubbies. It is unfortunate that no serial has ever tried to take up the cause of the poor woman. No body talks of the atrocities meted out to the millions of unfortunate women, who struggle throughout their lives to keep the fires burning in their homes. The women on the screen can very easily act as sweet wives and doting mothers because they don't have to sweat it out in the scorching sun or deal with a drunkard husband or catch a local bus every day. Rather these saas-bahus burn their energies in out-smarting each other. Their useless squabbles have engrossed people, particularly the female viewers, so much so that they hero(ine) worship them and, of course, emulate them. The trend-setter in this direction has been a comedy serial Tu-Tu, Main-Main, also produced by a woman, Nirja Guleri.
Another irritant is the image of the working woman projected on the small screen. All the ideal heroines, be it Tulsi or Parvati, (though educated), are tucked away in the four walls of their homes. It seems that for Ekta Kapoor (herself a professional) profession and goodness don't go hand in hand. Moreover these chocolate-cream dolls are no match to the likes of Payal - Pallavi, Aarti - Anu, Mandira - Menka or Ramolla - Kamollika, who are nothing but unscrupulous manipulators, scheming rogues and even murderers. It is these professional women that represent the new millennium woman - educated, independent and liberated. Aroona Irani's desi family from England has a pair of good-for-nothing daughters who, instead of helping run the family business in a lean period, remain busy in falling in and out of love-tangles, thus giving a free hand to the scheming daughter-in-law.
The new serial Jassi Jaisa`85 had, to some extent, tried to create a new image of the middle class woman, struggling very hard to hold on to her middle class values, but unfortunately, even she couldn't sustain that struggle for a long time and as the serials is shaping-up, it seems that even Jassi (or the director) has succumbed to clich`E9d projection of woman.
All the male characters in the serials are Maryada Purshotam Ram personified. All of them, without any exception, are ideal husbands, dutiful sons and loving fathers. In the family business, they all work in unison without a whimper. If ever there is a problem, it is ascribed to the manipulation of women. Even, their extra-martial relationships are handled in such a way that they are able to win sympathy and are exonerated every easily by the directors (the wife, too, has no other option) as the innocent victims of the crookedness of the "other woman".
For centuries, woman has been fighting against the patriarchal society. But ironically, these serials have shifted the whole focus of woman's struggle from the man-woman struggle to a woman-woman struggle. The creator of this 'new-age woman' on the small screen are trying to give a new twist to feminist ideals by projecting that it is not man who is degrading woman, but the woman herself, whether it is saas-bahu squabbles or the wife-'other woman' war.
Women must see the writing on the wall which points out to the fact that the whole struggle has turned inside. We are bent on destroying ourselves, like Bhasmasur, while man is watching the whole scene with a sarcastic smile on his face.
In the real world, if we talk of dowry deaths, the blame is laid upon the greed of the mother-in law. If we talk of female foeticide, the onus is put on the gynaecologists, who are mostly women. Man doesn't figure anywhere.
The objective of creating a society
of independent and empowered urban women who will, in turn, use their
freedom and power in social uplif of their counterparts at the
grassroots has been shattered. There is need for the woman to redefine
herself and restructure her social role. She must not let her freedom
and power blind her to her constructive role in the society.
date with doc
THESE are crazy times for women. Many of them are trying to do 10 jobs at the same time. What gets sacrificed in this mad rush is probably your own visit to the doctor. Just the thought that something is wrong with your body is enough to make you feel worse. If only you knew when you really need to visit the gynaecologist, you could save yourself a lot of stress. Mothers of daughters in their pre-teen years often worry about discharge showing on underpants. This is normal occurrence and simply indicates the beginning of secretions of the glands in the lower genital tract. Any discharge that dries to form a brownish crust that can be peeled or scraped off from the clothes is normal. A watery discharge occurring about 12 – 14 days after the start of the period indicates release of the egg and is normal too. What is not normal, however, is discharge that is foul smelling, itchy, yellow or curdy white. Do visit the gynaecologist.
Have you had a menstrual period recently which seemed different? The menstrual periods change, depending on your mood or your stress levels. A normal period lasts two to six days and comes every 21 to 35 days, counting from the first day of the bleeding. The total blood flow during the entire period is approximately five to six tablespoons. Anything more or less than these limits is definitely not normal and needs to be reviewed by the gynaecologist. Heavy periods are not very easy to quantify, but if there are clots, if you need more than 10 sanitary napkins in one day, if you tend to soil your clothes despite using adequate protection, if you have to miss work or a social engagement because of periods, then they would be classified as heavy periods. The underlying causemust be investigated.
Many women have this misconception that heavy or frequent periods around the time of menopause are natural events. But this is not so. Menopause is that phase of a woman’s life when the egg is not being made regularly and the hormone levels are falling gradually. This will reflect as periods coming later and later and getting scantier rather than coming more frequently or being heavier, with more flow. These abnormalities may not be due to hormonal changes or cancer, but unless you investigate, how will you know?
Have you ever had a tinge of blood or pain after sexual activity? There could be infection or early changes associated with cancer of the cervix. Don’t delay.
Painful periods are very common and respond beautifully to anti – spasmodics and pain killers. Pain that often starts before the start of actual bleeding and lasts even after the period bleeding is over may indicate an underlying disorder. A large number of women seek advice on their inability to conceive. Many of them come within few months of marriage, probably because of social pressures. You must remember that nature has its own system. Investigations for infertility are recommended only two years of active married life unless you have already crossed 30 years of age. Nevertheless, do check your weight for height according to tables given in every diary. You are fat if your weight is 10 per cent more than your weight for your height. Be sensible and balanced in your diet. Exercise not only to lose weight but to be fit. Check breasts for any watery or milky secretions. If present,even if you have never had a pregnancy or had one more than 12 months earlier, visit your gynaecologist now. If you have regular cycles, are neither fat nor hairy with oily, acne-prone skin and have no breast secretions, wait awhile. Relaxing will do your hormone levels far more good than being stressed out.
You could be one of those who has missed her period and dreading the thought that it could be a pregnancy, yet waiting on in the forlorn hope that an unwanted pregnancy certainly can’t happen to you! If you have been indiscreet, and not protected yourself against a pregnancy, it’s time to seek help fast because abortions can now be done very successfully with medicines provided you do not delay. Are you among those happy ones with no abnormal gynaecological problems?
Happy because many aches and pains arise in the mind. A tense person is more likely to have knots in the stomach, an irritable bowel and delayed periods along with many other complaints. Fewer visits to your gynaecologist is good not only for your pocket but also for your busy work schedule. All the same, do take out time for your annual checkup and Pap smear cancer screening as well as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) DNA Hybrid Capture Test every three years for early pickup of those cases which may develop cancer of the cervix (mouth of the womb). These visits can also be used by your gynaecologist to counsel and guide you through the various changes your body will undergo as it grows older with you.