HomeLifestyleMohan Khokhar and MK Saroja: Two lives immersed in dance

Mohan Khokhar and MK Saroja: Two lives immersed in dance

Dance scholar and historian Mohan Khokhar and Bharatanatyam exponent MK Saroja found each other at Kalakshetra – the effort of Bharatanatyam royalty Rukmini Devi Arundel to provide artistic education to young adults.

Born in a Brahmin family, Arundale tried to adopt a puritanical approach dance – A large part of sexuality and sensuality is represented by extrusion make up cook, which had been a part of it for centuries, and focused more on devotion, making it more traditional and palatable to audiences of the time. But the irony is that the focus on devotion in the presentation did not mean penance. She brought in intricate costumes, elaborate sets and grandeur – which epitomize the current forms of Bharatanatyam.

It was 1940. India was yet to gain freedom and freedom of expression and Bharatanatyam was about gaining acceptance among Brahmin families, as people agreed to allow their daughters, the daughters of ‘good houses’, to dance.

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Mohan was then living in Lahore in undivided Punjab, where classical dance was never a form of interest or respect and where Bharatanatyam was unheard of by most people. Apart from being from a culturally inclined family, Saroja was learning the art form from scholar Muthukumaran Pillai in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu.

Dance, Mohan Khokar and MK Saroja Khokar Alarmel Valli an Indian dancer pays tribute to dance pioneers Mohan Khokar and MK Saroja Khokar

Meanwhile, Mohan had watched the performance of dancer and choreographer Ram Gopal and could never forget the magic of his movements. During one visit, Gopal lived at Mohan’s house in Punjab, where his father was an army commissioner. The young boy had asked her about learning dance forms. “Rama told her that people do this dance in the south. When you go, no one in north India can teach you ChennaiMohan’s son and dance historian Ashish Khokhar says, you will find a woman sitting under the tree, you can ask her to teach.

After eight days’ journey from Lahore, in a train pulled by a steam engine, his face blackened by a muzzle of coal, Mohan reaches Chennai and asks Arundel to teach him. “He found it strange that this boy from Pakistani Punjab is so mad that he has come to learn dance,” says Ashish.

Mohan became Arundel’s first male student. “After a week he realized that this boy would die because he was not used to eating rice and rice dishes – a staple in South India – three times a day. He asked the hostelers to make chapatis once a day. He was like an adopted son to her,” he adds.

Dance, Navtej Singh Johar Navtej Singh Johar is an Indian Sangeet Natak Akademi Award winning Bharatnatyam dancer

Saroja’s guru was the first official dance guru in Kalakshetra, a small, simple conservatory at the time.

Far from their worlds and cultures, it was their love for Bharatanatyam that brought the two together. They married in 1949 and moved to Baroda, where Saroja learned Kathak from renowned gurus Sunderlal Gangani and Kundanlal Gangani of the Jaipur Gharana, and Khokhar became the head of the dance department at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. At that time it was the only university to offer dance at college level. when both are gone Delhi In 1965, Mohan joined the Sangeet Natak Akademi while Saroja taught his students. Around the same time she was traveling with her own performances in addition to taking regular classes for a handful of students and some film and advertising projects in Paris. His friends and contemporaries Indrani Rahman and Yamini Krishnamurthy would often visit his Delhi home and ask him to teach him some unique compositions.

Dance, Mohan Khokar and MK Saroja Khokri Kavita Dwivedi pays tribute to dance pioneers Mohan Khokar and MK Saroja Khokar

“While my father saw the principle of danceMy mother worked for the practical aspect of it,” says Ashish, who in 2013 organized a well-received exhibition titled “A Century of Indian Dance: 1901-2000” which featured photographs, costumes, letters, books , brochures, concert invitations, and even pictures of dancing in matches and firecracker boxes. The exhibition was hosted by UNESCO at Lincoln Center, New York, The Dance Museum, Stockholm, and Paris. Billed as India’s largest dance collection by the Dance Council.

While Mohan died in 1999 due to cancerSaroja, who spent the last four decades of her life in Chennai, died at 91 in June earlier this year. Last weekend, on Mohan’s birth anniversary, a tribute was organized to two titled “Sarojmohanam” and his senior dance exponents – Alarmal Valli, Leela Samson, Madhavi Mudgal, Navtej Singh Johar and Aditi Mangaldas – took up two lives immersed in dance. give respect. Ashish also screened a documentary depicting his life and times, explaining how it is important to remember those who contributed significantly to the dance. “In India, there are not even five books on dance in a year. Where is our protection from Corporate India?” Says Ashish, who is continuing his father’s work with his wife Elizabeth, adding to his extensive collection of memorabilia.

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