This month we speak to Pracheeti, a vibrant and multi-talented classical dancer and translator based in Pune. She has been learning Odissi for the last 13 years and performs extensively in concerts and major festivals across the country. Her laughing eyes and animated personality add to her zest for life, as she talks about her association with dance and languages, owing to her proficiency in German, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
Just last month, she was also felicitated with the Bhaskar bhushan award by the Maharashtra Journalist Foundation in Goa and is now really excited about starting her own banner – Nrityavishwa. Read on to catch a glimpse into her world.
So, Pracheeti , what is dance to you?
Dance is a medium of expression that helps me channelize my thoughts and energies. It’s a way of life for me. I may not see myself as a very spiritual person otherwise, but dance certainly brings a lot of equilibrium in me and helps me evolve as a person. It’s a very sacred space where I understand people and art better, in addition to looking at myself as a third person.
Do tell us about your journey. How did this adventure begin?
Dance has always enraptured me. In fact there is a story behind how my mother is actually responsible for my Odissi adventure. When she was pregnant with me, she watched Odissi for the first time on TV, by none other than Padma Vibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra, who is considered the doyen of Odissi and especially stayed up to watch his performance! Later, when she realized I was really interested in dance, she tried enrolling me for Bharatanatyam but I didn’t find the connection I was looking for. After drifting around a little bit, I happened to meet my Guru Smt. Yogini Gandhi who teaches both, Kathak and Odissi. While I had no idea about this dance form or what it entailed, I was totally enamoured by her performance when I watched her dance. And I was in! To add to it, that year on my birthday, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was incidentally in Pune to conduct a workshop. So I basically spent my entire birthday in his presence and I remember every moment of it! (grins from ear to ear) I think that’s just destiny. From that moment on, the inspiration was endless and constant. Today, I can’t imagine my life without dance!
So what is your take on dance being an expression that crosses all barriers?
I think every form of art is like a language and dance more so, being a very visual form of expression ever since the prehistoric times. We instinctively tend to respond to any rhythm we hear – even a heartbeat. Since rhythm plays such an important role in our life, dance is almost inborn. When enacting a mythological character, especially with a western audience, we see how it goes beyond the character and the character’s physicality, the focus thus being on the emotions, expressions, mood and actions.
Speaking of expression, we hear you have quite a kinship with languages! Tell us more.
Yes, I do have a passion for learning new languages, which I pursued simultaneously along with my studies in economics. I first grappled with Japanese and German in college, after which I randomly stumbled upon Spanish and then totally fell in love with it! It has such a nice lyrical flow to it. I then decided to take up translating, since it allows me to accommodate my passion without compromising on my work. That’s how BITS became a part of my life. It’s not been an easy journey, but I’m lucky to have both the things I love, in my life at the same time.
Fabulous! Would you say dance and languages are intertwined in a way? They have a lot in common, don’t they?
Oh the similarities between dance and languages are endless! They are both mediums of self-expression and connecting with people. They are also numerous, ever-evolving and have a structured format. It’s fun how you have boundaries and codes to live by, but at the same time you can still be so creative and there is so much to explore within that framework as well. You get to learn so much about cultures and new people, and are exposed to a whole new segment of the world in this process.
Owing to your previous experience in the language industry, how important do you think it is to be multilingual?
I think multilingualism is integral today, with such a cosmopolitan society like ours. Conducting yourself is important, depending on the various people you interact with and the topics you’re exposed to. I feel it really affects your confidence as well. You also end up reading a lot more, as a result of so many cultures. In any case, the average educated Indian usually speaks a minimum of three languages, so it isn’t too farfetched a goal!
Our readers would love to know if taking Odissi to Spain is on the cards. Best of both worlds, in a manner of speaking?
To perform in Spain would be a dream come true! But I think I still have to work towards it (laughs). I have worked before with Odissi coupled with Marathi music and Bengali music, and even considering French next! But a collaboration of Spanish and Odissi is definitely on the list – someday.
If you had to pick out one unforgettable moment in your career, which one would it be?
My life-changing moment would definitely have to be when I saw Guruji for the first time. But in my career, I suppose it would be my first solo performance in Bhubhaneshwar, back in 2013 in the Odissi International Festival, wherein I was conferred the Odissi Prativa award and was also selected amongst the top ten talents in the festival. I don’t think that feeling can even be described in words!
Last but not the least; any other languages on the bucket list?
(laughs) So the next language will definitely be a regional one. Oriya for sure, for reasons that there is a huge untapped territory of Oriya literature, coupled with how it will help me with choreography or even understanding the thought processes behind the dances. Sanskrit is another language I would love to study, purely from the literature point of view and who knows, maybe even translate!