“Every Shade of Life is Reflected in Dance ”– Mamata Shankar
Renowned film actress and choreographer Mamata Shankar always looks to do new things. She has inherited dance and art. Mamata is the daughter of india’s foremost classical dancers Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar. She learned dancing from her parents, and later on she carved a niche for herself in the field of acting. Mamata played an emotional role in the film ‘Mrigaya’, which was released in 1976. The film won the National Film Award. After working in innumerable films, Mamata is now running Dance Training Centre in Kolkata where she is grooming the next generation of dancers. Sanjay Sinha had a prolonged discussion with Mamata Shankar at her Kolkata office. Here are the excerpts
Q.You inherited a rich cultural heritage from your famous family members. How does it feel ?
I feel proud of the fact that I grew up amongst such stalwarts as Pt. Ravishankar, Uday Shankar, Amala Shankar and Anand Shankar. The sound of music, the sound of ‘Payal’ was in my ears right from the day I was born. That’s why art is in my soul .
Q.You also started your career as a dancer. What made you turn to acting?
Dance and acting are inter-liked . Dance without emotions is useless. I started off as a classical dancer, but when I was offered roles by some filmmakers I couldn’t turn them down.
Q.How do you view classical form of dance?
Life’s every sphere is imbued with classical dance. Anyone who is fully dedicated to this, can feel it. As my family environment revolves around dance and art, I am also dedicated to it. It has a different kind of joy. I have always considered dance to be worship. I am an actress but dance is my identity.
Q.Who are those film-makers that you have enjoyed working with and the moments you still can’t forget ?
I have worked with almost all the stalwarts, such as Satyajit Roy, Mrinal Sen, Rituporno Ghosh, Buddhadev Dasgupta, Goutam Ghosh etc. Everyone blessed me and I learned every single minute. I learned the nuance of acting from these icons. I always wanted to learn something. I believe one can learn all one’s life. It has neither any age nor limit. I shared a good bonding with my co-artists; we enjoyed ourselves even during our work.
Q.Any one moment which you still cherish?
There are so many such moments. Happiness and sorrow are part of life. But I held myself in the most stressfull of times.
Q.Are you working on anything new in dance ?
There are so many things to do in the field of dance. I’ve always tried to do something different. Even today I encourge my students to do something new. As an artist is known by his art, he should always look for improvement. The only way to become famous and make a name for yourself is through excellent performance. I’ve seen my parents work really hard.
Q.There is a growing trend nowadays of fusion between eastern and western forms of dances. What is your take on it ?
I don’t see anything wrong in it. Everything changes with time. These experiments have been going on for long. But we must keep one thing in mind, that while mixing the eastern and westerns dance forms, the soul of the eastern should not die. Even I have done such experiments keeping this in mind. Classical dance and music have a place of their own, and this can’t be denied. Many foreigners are following classical music. I have many students who live abroad.
Q.How do you feel after reaching such loffty heights ?
It feels good that I’m taking my family legacy forward. I am serving art and want to continue to do so till I breathe my last.
Q.You no longer act in films ?
It’s not like that but right now I am totally committed to dance and my dance institute.
Q.You are basically an actress, but given an opportunity would you like to join politics ? Many artists have done that.
You’re right, but I never thought of politics. I want to remain an artist till my last and Serve this craft.
Q.Don’t you feel in today’s enviornment classical form of music and dance are getting lost ? The modern day youth is fast moving towards western music.
Classical form of dance and art can never be lost. It’s true that the craze for western music is growing, but it is wrong to say that it is getting lost. Even today a huge section of youth is dedicated towards eastern dance and music.
Q.Any advice you would like to give to young artists ?
Hard work, committment and dedication are paramount. You can’t progress without these qualities. I would also like to advise the youngsters to practice with total committment.