People enjoy during the festival at Fort in Mumbai. (Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)
What happens when two titans come together in an embrace instead of a clash? On Thursday, the result was pure magic, as classical dance stalwarts Aruna Mohanty and Deepti Omchery Bhalla performed in a unique cultural confluence of dance forms — Odissi and Mohini Attam — on day six of the ongoing Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
The Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees made their debut at the festival with their maiden collaboration, which they conceptualised just a few months ago.
“When [curator of the dance segment] Lata Surendra invited me to perform, I got the idea of merging my dance form, Mohini Attam, with a distinct yet similar style,” said Bhalla, professor of Carnatic music at Delhi University. “That is when I asked Mohanty if she would join me, as we have very similar temperaments in our dance. We conceptualised a unique performance, which is not a fusion but a confluence of culture and dance styles.”
Based on the poem Veena Poovam (Fallen Flower) by Malayali poet N Kumaran Asan, the performance saw the danseuses tell the story of a flower from its birth to its end.
“It is about the journey of life,” said Mohanty, who heads the Orissa Dance Academy in Bhubaneswar.
Both dancers had to make time for hectic travel and practice sessions across their respective states to choreograph the dance and work on the music. Bhalla even composed the Carnatic music for the performance, and lent her voice for a segment.
Despite their decades of experience, they showed a hint of nervousness before the performance.
“It could come as a culture shock to purists to perform at an event along with other modern forms. But it is our moral duty to reach out to the youth, which this festival sees in abundance,” said Mohanty.
Their apprehensions were entirely misplaced; the duo received a standing ovation at the end of their performance.
“It was a treat to watch,” said Shreya Bisws, 26, who had travelled all the way from Bhandup to attend the festival.