Sandhya Manoj’s coloured lenses flicker as she smiles. She is taking the role of Kaikeyi in her dance show, she says, tucking in her lips, rolling her eyes. She knows it is unusual to present the less popular characters of the epics. Everyone is quick to brand a person, she says. ‘She didn’t smile, so she must be arrogant,’ they decide. Sandhya wants to present the side of these women, women like Kaikeyi from The Ramayana and Gandhari from The Mahabharata who are called selfish and arrogant. What do they have to say and how do they justify their actions?
“It is a dancer from Mumbai — Namita Bodaji — who presents Gandhari,” Sandhya says.
She is here as part of Soorya Festival, to also do a workshop through dance and yoga. “I am married to Manoj Kaimal, who has been a yoga practitioner for years. He has learned yoga from going to classes but has a philosophy of his own. A yoga school called Manasa Yoga was started in Malaysia in 1999,” says Sandhya, who settled in Malaysia after marriage. She imbibed the same philosophy into her dance. “The workshop (in Thiruvananthapuram) is to be aware of your own emotions and segregating them into compartments. To know how to deal with it, measure it, express it and apply it.”
Sandhya was raised in Kuwait and began learning dance at the age of four or five from Parvathy Narayana Swamy. She picked up Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam as a child. When the Kuwait War broke out, the family moved back to Kerala. She belongs to North Paravoor, she says. Sandhya continued her classes but during college, all her dance was mainly for youth fests and she doesn’t want to count that as part of her dance journey. In Malaysia, she resumed her Bharatanatyam,practice at the Temple of Fine Arts, where she also began taking Odissi classes under Geetha Shankaran-Lam. “With Geetha and others, we went to Orrisa to learn under Durga Charan Ranbir. It is afterwards that I began choreographing my own work.”
Katha, her work, was featured in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. Her Navarasa workshop through dance and yoga would be on at Ganesham, till December 10....