Body & Soul

It’s a beautiful spring afternoon. The kind a city like Kolkata can ill-afford. At a spacious flat on Ho Chi Minh Sarani,India’s most celebrated proponent of contemporary dance...

Written by Premankur Biswas | Published: February 19, 2010 4:02:41 am

Astad Deboo on his Raavan experience and more

It’s a beautiful spring afternoon. The kind a city like Kolkata can ill-afford. At a spacious flat on Ho Chi Minh Sarani,India’s most celebrated proponent of contemporary dance,Astad Deboo,is installed on a sofa. Around him,there are important-lookingknick-knacks —a Belgian vase here,an intricate wrought iron candle stand there. A suspicious Dalmatian walks into the room and starts growling at me,as if for the effect. Deboo quickly hushes the dog down and informs me that “he is harmless”.

I am a good half-an-hour late for the interview,but Deboo is patience personified. “Sit down. Catch your breath,” he says and starts petting the dog. It’s difficult not to be intimidated by someone as graceful as Deboo. Even as he sits in front of me,I realize the futility of my inadequate google research on the man. I’m not going to impress Deboo by divulging the fact that I know that he has worked with the likes of Pina Bausch and Pink Floyd. He doesn’t need such pointless ego massage. So I confess that I know very little about him,that I have never seen his work. “It’s quite natural that you haven’t. I rarely perform in Kolkata. Do you remember the video of Omkara? I choreographed that,” smiles Deboo.

After he chooses to break the ice,Deboo tells us about the production that has brought him to Kolkata,Breaking Boundaries. “It is a collaboration with the Salaam Baalak Trust,a NGO established with the proceeds of the film Salaam Bombay. I have worked with some children from the NGO which has made this production more energetic and youthful. Most of these children were more familiar with the Bollywood style of dancing which is why I have tried to give these youngsters steps that stretch their abilities. The production is 75 minute long and was first staged in April 2009,” says Deboo.

The fact that Bollywood style of dancing is the most popular form of expression today,disappoints Deboo. “Bollywood seems to dominate each and every creative sphere today. No television show promotes Indian Classical music,there is no reality show on Indian classical dance. Even in the US,shows like So You Think You Can Dance promote alternative modes of dancing,but we cant think beyond Bollywood ,” says Deboo.

Deboo has chosen to stay out of Mainstream Bollywood,but he does undertake a projects which interests him. “In Mani Ratnam’s Raavan I was asked to choreograph the sequence where Sita (Aishwarya Rai) tries to escape from Raavan’s (Abhishek Bachchan) vatika. It’s actually not a dance sequence,it was more about action. I had a field day choreographing the sequence because Mani gave me complete creative freedom. Even the stars were really professional,” says Deboo.

Though he has spent most of his childhood here,Deboo says emphatically that he has not forged a strong bond with the city. “I did spend a few of my growing up years here,but then I actually grew up in Jamshedpur. However,I like speaking Bangla,” he smiles.

Breaking Boundaries will be performed at the GD Birla Sabhaghar on February 23.

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