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Headbanger’s ball?

Five years ago, when Paris-based bharatnatyam dancer Rukmini Chatterjee attended a gig in Spain by “some obscure Norwegian heavy metal band,” she was not just awed by the guttural vocals, the headbanging, long-haired attendees and their black T-shirts.

art and culture Updated: Mar 27, 2012 12:44 IST
Megha Mahindru

Five years ago, when Paris-based bharatnatyam dancer Rukmini Chatterjee attended a gig in Spain by “some obscure Norwegian heavy metal band,” she was not just awed by the guttural vocals, the headbanging, long-haired attendees and their black T-shirts.

“What struck me was the ritual. It reminded me of the tantric rituals from India," says the 41-year-old danseuse. The curious mix of combining death metal music with bharatanayam is something she explores in her latest production titled Questionings. “I knew then that the energy of metal was apt to explore the theme of Kalyug, which I plan to do this time.”

Jazz and Hindustani classical have been the safest Indo-Western collaborations to date. But Chatterjee chose this unusual pairing because, “The dance, music, lights are all integral to the production. I wanted to highlight the lyrical aspect of metal bands. I feel metal heads are the greatest urban poets.”

So tomorrow, as Norwegian thrashers Vreid belt out some music, citations from the Upanishads and a speech by Adolf Hitler form the backdrop, Chatterjee, who trained under Mrinalini Sarabhai, will take her cue.

The climax of the hour-long performance will result in a tantric ritual of sorts with a light show, a priest talking about Kalyug and the performers going into a trance.

“The similarities between Sanskrit and German are known. However, what surprised the band and is sure to leave the audience amazed is how two different school of thoughts and philosophies talk about the same things,” she feels.

Is she scared of criticism from purists? “I believe that every form is interlinked and when you delve deeper and combine two, however different they are, it shows the universality that exists. Two years ago, when we all gathered for the first time to take forward this experiment, I had butterflies in my stomach. A week later, I was sure it would turn out just fine.”

With a world premiere in India that took off in Delhi yesterday, the show will travel to Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Mumbai this week, before it opens at the Oslo Opera House.

Rukmini Chatterjee and Vreid present, Questionings, at Tata Theatre, NCPA on March 28, 7 pm