Not Just Crime Positive Stories Also Have an Audience: Mallika Sarabhai
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – “Is it not tragic that it is mostly a series about gory crimes and criminals that gets all the attention on OTT platforms? However, I have complete faith that content revolving around goodwill has a sizable audience,” dancer and actor Mallika Sarabhai, Artistic Director of ‘Darpana’, who is currently producing multiple pilots and will soon approach different digital platforms, said.
To be produced under the banner of Darpana, the content aims to arrest the narrative that only violence and crime get people to binge watch.
“It is such a cliche that audiences do not want to see stories revolving around the positive. We are hoping we crack that and show an alternative — one can always choose compassion. But if you do not give viewers that option, then how are they supposed to choose it? Why do the characters have to be horrible to do something cool,” asks this Padma Bhushan awardee.
Not only an actor and dancer, Sarabhai, known for social activism and raising her voice for democracy and standing by different peoples’ movements, stresses she sees little sense in slotting art and social activism for they intersect for her at all levels.
“My work and my life are the same. There is never a moment when I am doing something and my mind is not raving about what I can create from that moment,” she said.
Sarabhai, who shot to international fame when she played the character of ‘Draupadi’ in Peter Brook’s nine-hour theatre production ‘Mahabharata’, admits that it changed the very course of her life, and she was no longer the same person after that.
“It made me realize I have the power to make a difference. I got the confidence to become my own modelling clay. It completely altered my trajectory and pushed me into becoming my own defendant. A deep journey to find my limits started. It’s not what Peter did to me. It’s what happened to Mallika,” recalled the artist.
While for most artists, the pandemic-induced lockdown ensured a lull in activities, but not Sarabhai.
“My artistic director, I, seven dogs and a peacock were on the campus throughout. The highway next to us was completely silent. We would fix the lights, had our own studio and spaces. So, if you go to the YouTube channel of Darpana, you will see a lot of our new work from 2021. We also went online the day the lockdown started. Our students did not really miss a single day of work/study. We generated a lot of material. Also, realizing how awful other dancers must be feeling, we did something called ‘Dance Unlocked’, where we got dancers from all over the country and trained them on how to hold the camera etc. through WhatsApp.”
On the condition of artists during the lockdown, she laments that India has never had a decent budget for the arts in the past 30 years.
“Whatever little is there, goes to the favorites. One wonders what the multiple academies are doing. The situation is deplorable. Think of what happened to the weavers who used to make the sarees for costumes, the leather cleaners for the tables. Or the metal worker who makes the ghungroos. When we talk about what Covid did to art, you are only seeing us. Not the hundreds of people behind us.”