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Book Review Chandralekha: Woman Dance Resistance. By Bharucha, Rustom. New Delhi: Indus, 1995. Pp.xiv+358.

Reviewed by Kiattipoom Nantanukul , 1st year MA in Arts and Aesthetics, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, boomarts@gmail.com It took Rustom Bharucha, one of Indian world-renowned performance studies scholars, at least three years from 1989 to 1991 to meticulously research, frame, and structure Chandralekhas life and works before published in 1995. With support from many Chandralekhas resourceful friends, colleagues, and Chandralekha herself, Bharucha had got plenty of fruitful information to bring one womans life into a book. His field works also provide him more reports on the life and works of Chandralekha. The author very appreciates what he has received during the process of writing this book as he ends his acknowledgements that this book is a tribute to what I have received (1995: ix)

In the introductory section, it is very important for the reader to keep Bharuchas objective and his position in writing this book in mind while reading. It is impossible for Bharucha to write only the biography of an Indian dancer. His main objective toward this book is to study the life and major works of Chandralekha with his artistically and aesthetically methodology and reflect these reports with his veteran critical writing skill. In order to write this book, he obviously positions himself as a critical insider, which means he is not totally an outsider critic as he usually is, at the same time, he is not the insider who might drown into the pitfalls of being aficionado. One more point the reader should pay attention to is the importance of these three major words in the books title, woman, dance, and resistance. The author takes SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013 By Kiattipoom Nantanukul 1

the reader through Chandralekhas life and works in the frame of these three keywords. The reader becomes more and more understand the structure of his writing after going through first one or two chapters from twelve chapters in the book.

In the first chapter, the author starts by introducing the childhood of Chandralekha. How her childhood affects her life and thought as a woman. The relationship between Chandralekha and these three important people, Harindranath or Baba, her Bharatanatyam Guru Ellappa, and Dashrath, is explored by the author. Bharucha uses chandralekhas biography to present the roots of her thinking methods and structures. He relates each person to the changes or the improvements in Chandralekhas life until she started her early career.

Chapter two starts with the title early career. Bharucha intentionally looks into the details of Chandralekhas early Bharatanatyam work, Devadasi and its concluding part Tillana. However, he establishes the problematic issues regarding to the understanding of the origin of Bharatanatyam before point to Chandralekhas work. The author spends quite a lot in this establishing part, until, he himself admit that he has to limit himself before going too far. He also mentions the Balasaraswatis Parampara and Chadralekhas perception toward it. When reaching the performance part, Bharucha shows his skill in writing from stage to page wonderfully. His descriptive writing toward all performances in this book sets very high standard example of writing as if the reader is watching the performance on stage. He goes through the details of Devadasi and Tillana which he points out the concept of Mandala in Chandralekhas choreography. The diagrams are also available in order to make it more visually understandable.

SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013

By Kiattipoom Nantanukul

After facing quite failure from her first production, Chandralekhas life had changed in the period of 1960s to the early of 1980s. This period is the major point in the third chapter. Between 1961 to 1984, the production of Navagraha in 1972 was the only production by Chandralekha. The author talks about Chadralekhas life in 1960s, the age of Woodstock. How Chandralekhas experience in this time shapes her life. Furthermore, Kamala the writing work of Chandralekha is explored here. Bharucha comes with the excerpts and analysis of her writing. However, the key concept of woman, dance, and resistance is still there. After that, the work Navagraha is analyzed. It is the time when the work of Chandralekha combines not only the concept of Mandala but also the notion of Tantric and Yoga. At the end of this chapter, Chandralekhas works in posters and cinema are shortly referred as the totally different categories of her works that affected her later thoughts.

The fourth Chapter mainly discusses the activities of skills after Chadralekha had her place to practice and develop the dancing skills. At the beginning of the chapter, the author considers and raises opinion on the politics of friendship, especially the political thought between Chandralekha and Sadanand. Later Bharucha mentions the details of how Chadralekha had her space and conducted the workshop in the early of 1980s. Furthermore, her life with political situation is also revealed in this chapter.

The main issue to be discussed in chapter five, the encounter of east-west notion of dance, is grounded for the chapter of Angika performance in the sixth chapter. In this chapter, Chandralekhas voice as an Indian dancer among the international forum is discussed. The reader can see why Chandralekha is referred by Bharucha as perhaps the only Indian participant who was in the position to deal ideologically with the problematics of classical dance in a contemporary context. This chapter also provides the details about

SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013

By Kiattipoom Nantanukul

Chandralekhas notion of dance in the east-west encounter period. There are citations from other scholars statements also. What Chandralekhas sources of inspiration mainly focused at that time was the idea of male and female, yoni and lingam as presented in Primal Energy. This made Chadralekha return to the dance stage again with inter-relatioships among Bharatanatyam, Yoga, and martial arts. These elements lead to the major focus in the next two chapters.

Chandralekhas manifesto of the body in dance, production of Angika, is discussed in Chapter six. The author begins with the concept of Cosmic energy in Chandralekhas choreography. Then he describes the performance of Angika part by part. While describing the performance, Bharucha adds his critiques into each part as well. He also collects the responses from other critics toward Angika and uses them critically in order to analyze the performance in the larger framework. He conceptualizes each part of the work of Chandralekha. Finally he writes his opinion and his own dream on Angika.

Chapter seven considers the responses after the performance of Angika. The author evaluates the critical reception to Chandralekhas work within the larger politics of the media. He goes through the critiques from many media. Seemingly, the most negative responses receive more attention for the author. In December 1986, Angamandala was performed. The author, again, describes the performance in each part and discusses the critical receptions toward this performance. Lastly mentioned in the chapter is the specially choreographed piece for inauguration ceremony called Namaskar.

After Angika, Chandralekha had to encounter with many traditionalists. Nevertheless, Lilavati was the next of her masterpiece. This performance is the main object to be discussed

SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013

By Kiattipoom Nantanukul

and analyzed in chapter eight of the book. The author starts by talking about the background of this performance. The text of Lilavati comes from the Bhaskaracharyas mathematical treatise written in the tenth century. In the text, he intricate the mathematical questions of algebra, geometry, arithmetic, and calculus to his daughter named Lilavati. Then Bharucha mentions the principles of Chandralekhas selection. This piece of her deals more erotically with a man-woman relationship in order to examine the eros in the world of numbers. Chandralekha transformed the mathematical question sloka into the movement on stage. This performance allowed her to search for the feminism in the female character. After the questions go on, by reading the meticulous description from Bharucha, the report on the touring of Lilavati is recorded. It seems that Lilavati is an iconic performance by Chandralekha because of the fact that it is the only production by her to be shown on television on a program that set new standards for the design of dance in mass media.

Chapter nine is quite shorter than other chapters in the book. It contains the reports of many performances after Lilavati. The first one to be mentioned is Prana. This performance reflects the desire of Chandralekha to search and pay homage to breath. It is the correlation between Yoga and Bharatanatyam, as considered deeper in detail as asanas and adavus. Then there was the link to Navagraha and the concept of Cosmic. Bharucha describes the performance of Prana from the opening to the detail of all planetary Yantras. The performance ended with Namaskar to Shanti. The brief response to this performance is also available at the end of the chapter.

Chapter ten begins with this statement. I am not talking about dance all the time. I am talking about your bodies, your lives, and your consciousness. Bharucha moves from considering performances to talk about the relationships between Chandralekha and her

SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013

By Kiattipoom Nantanukul

dancers. What is the heart of her dancer training is discussed in this chapter. The whole notions of dancer are considered. How can Chandralekha find the dancer? What is the method of dancer training? What are the specific principles of dance for Chandralekha? What is the result or outcome of her training? And what are the reactions from the dancers who had worked with Chandralekha? The reader can find the answers to these questions in this chapter with the wide horizontal research of the author. One interesting point in this chapter is about male dancer. Bharucha explores the life of Sridhar, the male dancer in Chandralekhas troupe. His story reveals the feminine in the male presence and the understanding of male energy. In this chapter, the reader is also introduced to foreign connections of Chandralekha. The outstanding one is Susanne Linke from Germany. The author critiques how this international connection has influenced on the workshop of Chandralekha. This made Chandralekha go to wider, intercultural context.

A full-page poster with the sentence India worships its women with the shadow of a woman lying above the statement is the introduction to chapter eleven. On the next page, the author begins the first topic In Search of Freedom. This phrase is a continuous quest for Chandralekha as she had encountered various social norms and modes of regimentation. For her, freedom can never be taken for granted. Bharucha looks into deeper paradigm by contextualizing Chandralekhas relationship to feminism in Indian context. He introduces the idea of feminist movement in India and how Chandralekha responds to the movement through herself and her works. He tells the story of his collaborative work with Chandralekha, the starting point of their friendship, called Request Concert, one part of a larger intercultural theatre project. After that, many works by Chandralekha that deal with her feminism are explored. The first is the poem called One More News. The second is Fire, Counter fire. The third is the making of poster for the womens movement where she used

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By Kiattipoom Nantanukul

the image to reclaim the icon from its appropriation by the government and reinvest with new energy and belief in the primacy of womens creativity. The fourth work is Chandralekhas exhibition of Stree, the controversial issue among Hindu women. This work also linked to the film Sahaja which contained the same topic of Stree. This film is discussed at the end of the chapter.

From Chandralekhas feminist view, Bharucha ends his book with Chandralekhas dance piece called Sri. This work reflects not only the synonymous with the goddesses Lakshmi and Devi but also the wider spectrum of earth energies and fertility symbols. These, undeniably, came from Chandralekhas voice in feminist movement although her self-representation may seem problematic to many feminists. The author takes the reader through the performance of Sri part by part with his conceptualization and ends the last chapter with his dream for Chandralekhas troupe.

The author claims in the postscript that this book cannot be completed without this session where he mentions the latest work of Chandralekha (in 1994), called Yantra. He gives brief background and opinion on this work.

If considering the objective in writing this book with the result after going through all pages, the reader can realize that Bharucha accomplishes his goal. He does not write Chandralekhas biography, but he, again, meticulously, combines her biography with his presentation. Chandralekha becomes great example of the artist for Bharucha to explore and conceptualize the definition of woman, dance, and resistance. In every chapter, the author links the topic back to his thesis. This sets a very good example in writing a valuable report in performance studies.

SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013

By Kiattipoom Nantanukul

Rustom Bharucha shows his talented skills in not only reading the performance but also communicating the performance to the reader. His performance descriptions are great. He can transform the text from stage to page incredibly. Inevitable, this work of Bharucha is the must for those who interest or do a research on Chandralekha.

However, as the time has passed, the changes in performance studies happen every moment. This makes the terminology in this book is not up-to-date. Certainly, Bharucha might want to change some words and fulfill his report with latest information if he looks back to this work at this time. Unfortunately, there is no more Chandralekha.

On one hand, this book is undeniable for being a great treatise on life and works of Chandralekha, on the other hand, the awareness of falling into the pitfalls of being Bharuchas aficionado is needed. His attitude toward Chandralekha, according to his book, is very positive. However, studying on any issues, the researcher needs to be a good critical insider as Bharucha positions himself in writing this book. Other views on Chandralekhas life and works need to be considered as well.

SAA 406 Indian Dance: Theory and Practice Winter 2013

By Kiattipoom Nantanukul