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Dancing all the way: Krishnakshi Sharma

‘The tree of the title is the girl’s childhood soul mate. She nurtures it to vibrant maturity, sometimes at the expense of her chores, that provokes the ire of her sister-in-law, performed with a marvelous spitefulness by Krishnakshi Sharma.’

Wrote the ‘Dayton Daily News’ in a review of a dance performance of Krishnakshi Sharma in the US of A. Since the age of 4, Krishnakshi, who is also fondly known as Mannu, has been learning the ropes of dancing skill of the Manipuri, Kathak and Bharatnatyam and performing in stage shows at a tender age of 6 in various parts of the country. Currently, she’s settled in Chennai where she is undertaking advance training in Bharatnatyam and other Classical dance forms. In an informal chat in Guwahati at her sister’s place, Krishnakshi talks about her journey so far and her recent stage shows in US and Canada.

‘I had earlier toured the United States performing the dance drama ‘Mahabharatam’ in 1999 at around 30 cities, which were very successful. My recent shows were organized under the Cleveland Cultural Alliance. It was a terrific experience portraying the Central character in the dance drama titled ‘Living Tree’, which was very innovative in a way that it was both universal and contemporary. All the shows were successful with packed houses of people belonging not only of NRI but also American audiences.’
Ironically, when the citizens of US were appreciating dance shows of Krishnakshi there, in our very own Guwahati city, much hue and cry were splat over a show of the US-based Vengaboys to be held here, citing objections of ‘cultural derogation’!

When asked her reaction over the controversy, Krishnakshi responded without hesitatingly, ‘If we don’t watch or appreciate cultures of different people, whether it is the Vengaboys or Naga dance, how can we learn? We have many things to learn from them that we should not disregard. And Artists or Culture shouldn’t be restricted to boundaries only.’

A Graduate in Arts, Krishnakshi had earlier completed her Bisharad in Manipuri and Kathak dance under the guidance of Gurumoni Sinha Singh, Guru Arabinda Kalita and Guru Hajuwari in 1992 and 1995 respectively. Her more extensive training was in Bharatnatyam, which she has been learning and even teaching till this day in Chennai. She had performed her Arangeetam in 1995 in Guwahati under the supervision of her Guru Padma Hargopal, famed of the very famous ‘Kalachetra’ based in Chennai, instituted by the late Rukmini Devi.

Since then, she has performed stage shows in various parts of the country in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh besides abroad in US, Canada and Sri Lanka in various dance drama’s, solo performance’s like Sangita Maruti, Mahabharatam, Agni Sambhuta, Dhanturi, Tyagraja Baibhabam, Living Tree, etc among others.

Then all of a sudden, Krishnakshi got and agreed to an offer to act in a Tamil film called ‘Kadhal Mannan’ opposite none other than the Southern Superstar Ajit Kumar, with co-artists including Girish Karnad and M.S. Vishwanadhan, a top music director of the Tamil Film Industry. The movie directed by Charan and released in 1998, was a big hit celebrating 100 days run in theatres. Besides her dancing skills, her performance also drew accolades and praises from the critics, which was quite commendable considering it was her first film. The Indian Express in its review has even envisioned her in the place of Manisha Koirala.

Next, offers kept pouring in from many top directors, but Krishnakshi declined them only to concentrate in her dance projects. When reminded her of missed opportunities, she said, ‘There were several factors for not accepting films then. I was only 17, quite immature to handle a career in films. Besides, I was more focused in dance projects, which I didn’t wanted to abandon halfway.’

However, she has not quite deserted films from her mind entirely. And as offers still coming to her from both South and Assam, Krishnashi might contemplate doing them in future.

‘I would love to act in an Assamese film. I have been talking to some of the filmmakers, but haven’t decided yet. Since I have done dancing a lot, I would prefer a more performance oriented role in films.’

She mentions about the social Assamese films of the 80’s, which she had liked a lot, besides the films of renowned filmmaker Jahnu Barua, with whom she is very interested to associate herself. ‘I would feel more proud to act in an Assamese film than a Southern film.’ Krishnakshi reveals.

Transition from dance to films is not unknown, with most of the South Indian Actresses from Vaijantimala to Hema Malini to Meenakshi Sessadri hailing from such backgrounds. And the move only helped them to explore their versatility besides mounting their dancing skills. When asked her to differentiate the existing dance in films and stage, Krishnakshi says, ‘When we have to perform a dance recital in stage, there are certain norms and specific skeleton within which we have to express, so in a way, there are certain limitations. But in films, dancing has no barriers which give ample scope to experiment and perform with our movements and expressions.’

The youngest daughter of Mrinal Sharma, a senior officer of the Oriental Insurance Co, who himself was associated with Assamese films at one time, Krishnakshi now shuffles between Chennai and Guwahati, carrying forward her work. Revaluating her career so far, she mentioned the contribution of her family and parents, who since her early learning from the age of 4, been supporting her in whatever way they can. To get a parting sort, asked her to choose any one of her choice between dance and films. And her reply was- you guessed right, dance!

That’s Krishnakshi Sharma for you.