Sthri (Woman) and the many facets of womanhood, a favourite subject among dancers has time and again been explored and also translated to thematic presentations. Sthri as Durga, Shakthi, Mother Earth, embodiment of endurance, her power of resilience, a lover and so on.
The theme is also a favourite with the ace dancer and choreographer Maalika Girish Panicker. The first in the series by Maalika was Sthri as Woman, then Sthri as Mohini and the latest Sthri as Ma (Mother).
These thematic presentations of womanhood have an added lustre as they are the presentations by none other than a person who loves femininity and has embraced it with love and devotion.
Dance has been her passion since childhood. True to this passion in 1988 she joined the famous Kalakshetra, dance school in Chennai. In 1996 she joined Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society and was the popular dance Guru there for 14 years.
“Dance had gradually exposed me to the finest aspects of female-oriented contemplations and deliberations that it had me gradually pining to be one amongst them. In most recitals after my Kalakshetra days, I looked beyond the run-of-the-mill male-oriented adavu-based Shiva Thandava pieces and brought in items that had lasya, or the feminine grace into my dance and included nayika-based padams and varnams where female expressions are obligatory to the bhava and explanation. The binding with this sex is what I soon saw for myself. The feeling wasn’t alien to me, for, as a young boy I loved mimicking girls and learning kitchen chores typically associated with women!” (Maalika in the article, ‘Coming into her own’ The Hindu, 2013, by Ranjini Govind)
Femininity, and embracing it with such love, sincerity and devotion is possible only when you really want to be one. Maalika Girish Panicker being true to herself decided to take that one big step in her life when she decided for changeover and went under the knife in Singapore, from being Girish Panicker, to the beautiful Maalika Girish Panicker. She took the name Maalika as in Raga Maalika, a garland of ragas.
She started her own dance school Aakash Ganga in 2009. Equally adept in Bharathanatyam and Mohinattam, Maalika also models for sarees and is a popular face in Local TV as judge for various dance competitions.
Following the transformation she presented her first dance presentation in the sequence: Sthri the Woman in 2009. And in 2010, Sthri as Mohini wherein she performed Mohinattam.
In the latest production Sthri as Ma, she touched on the various roles of a mother incorporating Bharathanatyam and Mohiniattam dance styles. The love, care and compassion a mother selflessly overwhelms her child with was lucidly brought out. The children whether it is the little Hanuman or the little Ganesha, the love lavished by their mothers remain the same as all mothers do.
In the second part of her production she showcased adoption, surrogacy, In vitro fertilisation (IVF), drawing parallels from mythological stories of Swamy Ayappan, Kunti Devi and Queen Gandhari. Revealing that motherhood is all encompassing.
The appealing music for the event recorded at Chennai with vocals by Ms Radha Badri was tailor-made for the event.
How self-fulfilling was this theme for you?
Maalilka: “This theme is of special relevance to me as I can never be a mother. That is a fact.
When Sri Shankaracharya was to answer the question on marital obligations being a celibate he felt he should experience it before answering. To be a mother there is the experience of child birth. I too went through the experience. The operation I went through was almost as painful as child birth. My sister came to look after me and the post operation care was almost similar to post-delivery care that is commonly undertaken. That experience made me feel very much as a mother.
In the dance I have even tried to portray both feelings of a male and female, like of Siva and Parvathi. The Vatsalyam (parental love) of a father as differently shown by a mother.
Nevertheless I still feel that I was unable to give my 100 % to the dance as there was logistics, decoration and so much to occupy the mind.”
I kept the dance movements befitting my age. No more jumping around, showing my valour. So I focussed more on Abhinaya (expressions).”
“The fast movements that I shall go through with my students.” She added with a smile.
And regarding what is next on the anvil?
She described, “The padams I used in the first part of the dance was in Tamil wherein I used Bharathanatyam and Mohiniattam dance forms. Now I plan to redo the padams in Sopanam music in Malayalam. Which will be more appropriate for Mohiniattam especially for a Malayalee audience.
Maalika lost her mother at the age of 13. In a chat show in the local Vasantham Channel when she was asked by the interviewer; “You say your mother is always beside you, what would you want to tell her?”
She had replied: “If I were to be reborn, I should be born to my mother and that too as a female. And I would like to give birth and show the child to my mother.”
Sthri as Ma, dance production, was presented on September 24th at the Singapore Polytechnic Auditorium.