ONLINE: Sangita Chatterjee expresses all our lockdown fears and hopes with Quest

Sangita Chatterjee (image: Facebook)

Quest: Lockdown Diary of a Dancer is a short film by Sangita Chatterjee, a Kathak dancer, put up on YouTube and social media. The concept and direction are by Sangita herself, with camera work by Sibnath Chakraborty and editing by filmmaker Lubdhak Chatterjee. A disciple of Smt Vaswati Misra, Sangita also teaches Kathak and is the artistic director of Kalpataru Arts.

In the film, the ‘lockdown diary’ shows a bird in a cage fluttering its wings and trying to work its way outside. This has been depicted with hand movements, interspersed with shots of footwork in a limited space.

In the second part, when the caged bird sings again, the dancer is trying to ger her rhythm back, with feet that tap and stop again. Hand movements and footwork express fear, but when she hears the call of the nature, sees sunshine, hears the birds chirping, she feels renewed hope and she starts dancing, just as the bird would have done if it could walk out from the cage. The shot where she is dancing with her laundry hanging behind her is very relevant because that is what was happening to all of us: creativity being overwhelmed by or being expressed during our household chores. 

As her body opens out and sheds the fear in response to the dance, it is interesting to note the sounds of instruments along with the sounds from the nature: sea and clouds, water bugs. The dancer has shown a linearity and clarity of thought which she has expressed through her dance. 

This is what Sangita said about her production: 'During this most unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 in human life, each one of us is compelled to slow down. Apart from the loss of physical health, one is challenged to cope with growing anxiety, fear and stress. Everything seems fragile and uncertain. Everything that once we craved seems fleeting and unimportant at this moment. At this juncture of life, I, being a dancer, went through an intense confrontation with myself as an artist and hence a quest began.... Why do I dance ? Do I dance to impress, express or maybe at times to suppress my feelings? Where does it begin? Is it my physical body, which does this like a chore, or does it lie somewhere else? How does a current situation like this impact my dance? Why was it that at the initial stage of this lockdown, the dancer in me stopped responding to dance completely? Was it scared to dance, where it was expected to have performative finesse? If performative finesse is expected out of a dancer, where does a dancer find space to express the mess and chaos within? But isn't the path to calmness walking through the mess? How honest and unassuming can I be with it? All these questions became part of my narrative in this lockdown period which again and again brought me back to dance, not just as a performative tool but as a lived experience. I slowly and steadily started to respond to a dancer's body and become convinced that it is a part of my being. It has its own entity, identity and character. Dance exists not only in the perfection of life, it breathes in the imperfections too.'