Acclaimed Bharatanatyam performer Parshwanath Upadhye, who performed in Hyderabad as part of the ongoing Gudi Sambaralu temple dance festival, says that dance is the best way to express his emotions. Trained in the traditional Mysore style of Bharatanatyam under the guidance of guru Shri Ravindra Sharma, Parshwanath has been learning the dance form for the last 30 years after starting at age seven.
“I started performing professionally 15 years ago. In keeping with Shivaratri, we are performing Hara which is based on Lord Shiva and Sati — how they fall in love, separate and meet again. So there is a whole story behind it,” shares Parshwanath, who is the winner of the prestigious Natya Mayura award. The 37-year-old, who runs an academy to teach young dance enthusiasts, is also one of the most sought after male dancers in the country. So how does the audience react to him acing the traditional dance form, which has traditionally been the purview of women dancers? “Initially, when I take to the stage, the audience does look a little taken aback because dance has always been perceived as a female dominated art form,” he says and adds, “However, after the first few minutes, it doesn’t matter whether I am a man doing Bharatanatyam or not. At the end, it is about presenting a story to the people through dance.”
Not surprisingly, Parshwanath’s combined act of Tandava (the male energy) and Lasya (graceful movements) is popular not only throughout the country but also on the global stage.
Talking about how much time he invests in getting the act right, he says, “Each piece is different. Tandava and Lasya are very important but at the same time, very different. When we are representing a character like Shiva, Tandava has to come out prominently and the kind of choreography is different but when it is Lasya, the energy has to be completely opposite. The whole act is a team effort.” While many youngsters are still interested in Bharatanatyam, Parshwanath disproves of the younger generations’ way of practicing.
“When I started out, I had to go through a period of struggle. That’s fading out now and the younger generation is simply interested in acquiring fame. They are not giving much time to learning the art form. They should study under a guru for 10-15 years to understand the intricacies of dance,” he advises, and adds, “Nowadays we see a lot of people on YouTube and Instagram, where they wear a costume and become a Bharatanatyam dancer. That is not how it goes. It is important to be educated and understand the history of the dance. It is about dedication. Thunderous applause does not come within a week’s practice.”