The daughter and granddaughter of Pandit Vinaya C Maudgalya talk to Ambika Kucheria about what it means to be tied by blood and ghungroos.
I chose to learn Odissi dance because of Behni Bua [Madhavi Mudgal]. As a child, I used to watch her rehearse, perform, teach and would wonder when I would be there.
In 1997, she asked me to perform with her and the group in Ahmedabad. It was a great experience especially since the group was much older than me. It also made me realise how exciting the whole process of make-up, being on stage etc. was.
Since then, we have done a lot of duets together. I am nervous, but dancing with her is wow and it gives me a lot of energy. We also share a great understanding on stage. Of course, there are differences in our dancing. I feel personalities get reflected in dance and hers is more calm and composed while mine is more excited, but I think the contrast looks nice.
People often ask if it is a lot of pressure having my aunt as my guru, but I think it is a great advantage, as is being born in this family. Music and dance are always being discussed and you imbibe so much. Sometimes my father and Behni Bua would be composing and choreographing at 1 am, and I would just be there. These sessions have taught me so much. The first time I had to choreograph a piece on my own, I was stuck initially but then everything fell into place, thanks to having seen Behni Bua choreograph.
As a guru, Behni Bua is a perfectionist – she is particular about how you talk, walk, even enter on stage. Moreover, she never praises you to your face and that is something that puts me in a fix even today – I never know if I am on the right track. In fact, our entire family is not very expressive! But then through some small actions – like asking me to be there for her performance – she says it all.
I’ve learnt so much from Behni Bua that it is difficult to put it in words. All I can say is that being part of her dance, and her life, is very fulfilling.
I formally started training Arushi when she was five years old. From a very early age she showed an interest in dance and would come and sit in class. She enjoyed being on stage, even before she knew what a stage was!
As my student, Arushi doesn’t get any special treatment. I have always taught her along with other students – this way her head stays in the right place! Yet, we clearly share a special bond. Often I don’t know how to explain something, but Arushi knows what I mean. When I am teaching Arushi, her eyes light up. She enjoys the concept – the rhythm and how it translates into dance – as much as the dance.
Sometimes in class a comparison is made between her and the other students, which I don’t encourage. But this happens more so because of her ability. When it comes to dance, Arushi has a natural instinct and a relish for it.
Arushi’s decision to take up dance as a career was her own – none of us forced her into it. She got admission into a great college but gave it up for dance. This showed her commitment, particularly in today’s world where people run after a piece of paper.
Besides performing together, Arushi has also started teaching with me. I noticed her teaching abilities at Kadam’s International Summer School a couple of years ago when she composed a pallavi to teach her students – not an easy task at such a young age.
Arushi doesn’t take anything for granted. She realises that just belonging to a certain family is not enough, that talent still needs working on. This is a very long journey and Arushi is just at the beginning of it. But she is on the right path and of course, I am there if she asks.