‘She believed she could, so she did! #keeplearning #sundayfunday’, read superstar Aliaa Bhatt’s Instagram post from three years ago. The A-list Bollywood actress’s mid-twirl Kathak spin piqued my curiosity. Was Aliaa dedicating her Sunday to learn a classical dance form? Of course, it must have to do with an upcoming film but was she actually proudly flaunting this new skill?
The Bong Connection: Artsy and proud of it
Being born to a Bengali family, the arts have been encouraged in me since childhood. At age 7, my grandma would diligently take me for Bharatanatyam classes thrice a week in Kolkata and then make me practise the steps at home. Even now, a one-off rehearsed performance at the annual Durga Puja is met by great persuasion by relatives. “Why don’t you take up dancing seriously?” I went on to learn a bit of contemporary jazz in school, thinking it was a more acceptable alternative to traditional dance. I was good at it, but left it in the name of preparing for my board exams. That was the end of my dance prowess as I knew it.
The City Girl: Culture is replaced by the daily hustle
I left Kolkata at 9, and city-hopped my way around the metros of India till 30; studying, working and soul-searching, all at the same time. As an urban millennial in the fashion industry, I realised that Indian heritage was something I plugged when it worked to my advantage. My culture sounded interesting in a SOP letter to a foreign university. Doing yoga seemed cool mainly because I hate the gym. Khadi and ‘Make in India’ were marketing jargons in fashion campaigns. Kathak didn’t even feature in my mindspace.
Nationalist yardsticks: Where Gen Z steps in
Today, the media (or Twitter, where the youth forms their opinions) seems to be split on their idea of Indianness. In a time where the right makes bold displays of patriotism and the left underplays it in the name of being overbearing on minorities, what has that meant for Indian culture? This is where Gen Z steps in. Or at least the famous brood on Instagram. Janhvi Kapoor breezes into upscale restaurants in her salwar kameez post-Kathak sesh, and Sara Ali Khan fluently does Hindi shayari simultaneously professing how much she misses NYC. Alaya F proudly and frequently drops her famous Kathak guru’s name amid her pancake-breakfast pics, and Kriti Sanon is well, known to be a trained classical dancer. Why pick a side? That’s what Gen Z seems to be saying, being very apolitical about it. And isn’t that beautiful?
Kathak over Pilates: The biased decision
I have to say it was Janhvi Kapoor’s super-graceful Salaam rehearsal on Insta that sealed the deal for me. Come lockdown, and Madhuri Dixit’s Instagram Kathak riyaz, ghungroos et al seemed like a sign from the universe, nudging me to give up procrastination and dive in. One day, when my college friend said she was interested in doing online classes during quarantine, I finally jumped to the moment. ‘I can always give up if I don’t like it’, I thought, in true millennial fashion. Plus, it would be like a fun new workout, and I won’t make a fool of myself at Pilates. One month into classes, and my posture thanks my decision. Not to mention the hurting biceps from holding up those mudras. But it’s all good. I hate to admit it, but I did it thanks to the gram.
Read about more of my quarantine pastimes here https://romitaroy.com/2020-new-year-resolutions/