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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Renowned danseuse Amala Shankar passes away in Kolkata

The centenarian, who had been active even in her early 90s, was awarded Banga Vibhushan by the Bengal government in 2011 for her contributions in the field of art.

By: Express Web Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: July 24, 2020 2:38:49 pm
Amala Shankar, renowned dancer died in Kolkata on Friday. (Express file photo by Subham Dutta)

Renowned danseuse Amala Shankar passed away in Kolkata at the age of 101 on Friday. Wife of legendary Indian dancer and choreographer Uday Shankar, Amala learned to dance during the 1930s, when women from “respectable households” were just about beginning to perform classical dance on stage.

Amala Nandy was born in 1919 in Jessore (present day Bangladesh) to a merchant family, which was interested in education and arts. It was a chance encounter in France in 1930 when she met her guru and future husband Uday Shankar. At the tender age of 11, when she had accompanied her father, Akshay Nandy, at the International Colonial Exhibition in Paris, she met Uday Shankar for the first time, totally unaware what would follow next. Uday Shankar was there at that time with his troupe. (Read this story in Bengali)

On the request of Uday’s mother Hemangini Devi to leave Amala with the troupe, her father agreed. On a day during this trip, Shankar, then 30 years old, asked the demure girl, dressed in a frock, to try out a few steps and twirl a stick in the air. Amala nailed every movement, as well as the expressions flitting on his face — it impressed him and he had said that she’ll be a dancer, that’s how her journey began as a dancer in the Shankar troupe.

Amala Shankar along with husband Uday Shankar (centre), son Anand Shankar (L), and  daughter Mamata Shankar. (Express archive)

The following year, Amala’s first performance as Kaliya in ‘Kaliya Daman’ was staged in Belgium in 1931. A long-lasting association with Uday started and later she became the stalwart to keep Shankar gharana of dance alive.

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ALSO READ | Dancing with the Star: The legacy of Amala Shankar, the centenarian

In 1939, when she was with a dance group in Chennai, Uday came to Amala one night and proposed her for marriage. The duo finally tied a knot in 1942. They had two children — Ananda, who went on to become a reputed composer and dancer, and daughter Mamata, who is also an actor and dancer.

Amala also played the lead role in ‘Kalpana’ (1948) — a film by Uday Shankar about a young dancer’s dreams of setting up a dance academy. She also graced the red carpet at prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Legendary danseuse Amala Shankar on her 100th birthday on June 27, 2018. Daughter Mamata Shankar along with other family members, relatives and her students celebrated the birth anniversary at Udayan Kala Kendra. (Express file photo by Partha Paul)

The restored print of ‘Kalpana’, which was screened at the festival’s Cannes Classic Section in 2012, the then 93-year-old star arrived at the event saying, “I am the youngest film star in Cannes”. The film had been brought to life after four years of concerted efforts. It was Uday’s brother, renowned sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, who had got in touch with Martin Scorcese’s World Cinema Foundation for support and funds.

The centenarian, who had been active even in her early 90s, was awarded Banga Vibhushan by the Bengal government in 2011 for her contributions in the field of art. In 2012, she received Sangeet Natak Akademi Tagore Ratna award for her contribution to dance.

Expressing her condolences, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her demise is an irreparable damage to the world of dance.

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