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Sonalscape: Celebrating 75 eventful years of Sonal Mansingh

As a child, she recognised and knew her Path;

As an adolescent, she was convinced and had a conviction of her Path;

As she became an adult, her streak of rebellion became her strength of achieving her Path.

Her eyes could portray the ultimate surrender of Radha as eloquently as the infuriation of Draupadi.

Her movements resplendently displayed the forms that became her language and mode of communication.

The form didn’t matter she was at ease with each one of them. Literature, knowledge, mythology, sociology, philosophy and Sanskruthi were her soulmates.

Nothing but perfection pleased her, she breathes, moves, lives and loves… Dance and her dreams, to elevate and create.

An eventful life inundated with highs and lows, twists and turns like the mighty Ganga, she emerges flowing into every phase of her journey.

When a legend speaks about some of the turning points in her life those that spoke not only about her Joie de vivre but her immense passion for the love of her life – Dance, the evening was full of eye-moistening memories at different stages of her life. Sonalscape, presented by Shri Kamakhya Kalapeeth-Centre for Indian Classical Dances, marked the completion of 75 years of arts of Dr Sonal Mansingh.

The Kamani Auditorium adorned with the fragrant jasmine and a visually elegant and attractive photo exhibition put together by Sangeet Natak Akademi in the foyer, was packed to the brim with longtime friends, dance community, connoisseurs and fans.

Some of the most dignified, potent, rare choreography and compositions were presented by the Diva as part of the evening of a raconteur. It was the heart wrenching “Jara – Krishna” episode that was the piece de resistance. In fact, all the three presentations were huge learning for every young dancer, the sensibilities, sensitivity or the manner of storytelling was indeed a master class.

The wit and humour laced with the never say die or bold moments in the life of Dr Sonal Mansingh that she reminisced gave in insight into the much talked about episodes.

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The decision-making day of making dance her only aim in life was an interesting and huge turning point of Sonal ji’s life. In the presence of her family -grandfather, mother, father etc the question posed was “What would you like to become or do – lawyer, IAS or IFS or what…..?” She said, “मने तो डाँस करवू छे।” (I would like to dance or become a dancer). Mother said, “You could do that too”. But No! I want to do only that! The difference between only that and that too carved the path with conviction and clarity. Here we see the legend reminiscing about that moment.

Amongst the very direct words Sonal ji spoke as a youngster I was most amazed when the then political leader and close family friend of the Pakvasa’s Shri Morarji Desai or Morarji kaka as Sonal j addressed him, told her that dancing in public was not becoming of young girls from families like ours, “Why do you want to dance in public?” pat come the reply “Why do you make speeches in public?”……..and after many years when he became the Prime Minister of India, Morarji Kaka jocularly said ….“You still dance in public!”

Video recordings in Black & White (courtesy Doordarshan) and some from the ’90s, and some recent ones were a treat to watch especially the ‘swami ninne koirinanu ra’  Bharatanatyam varnam. The choreographic works of Sonal ji were certainly way ahead of the times whether it was the usage of spoken words or recitation of poetry, techniques and stage properties, innovative costumes, jewellery and hair design and of ourselves the very theme or concept. Draupadi, When God’s meet with global music and Greek history and rituals, Indradhanush, Sabrang etc. Sonal ji included popular classic film songs with the same flair as she performed classical forms. Theatre influences were so appropriately used especially when the towering voice of the late Manohar Singh recited heart-wrenching poetry as she performed the role of Draupadi.

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The journey from Raj Bhavan to Rajya Sabha has been one of highs and lows, twists and turns, joys and accolades, bouquets and brickbats but just as Sonal ji said in her interview with Karan Thapar – “My name means gold and to become gold one has to go through the fire.” So she has and emerged as the most shining, bright, Jewel in the cultural crown of Bharat. India is proud and holds its head high that this earth has given humanity, an artist like Dr Sonal Mansingh.

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