ONLINE: Aditi Mangaldas and repertory recreate journey from angst to acceptance of lockdown in Within... From Within

An image from Entwined featuring Aditi Mangaldas and Tripti Gupta

Within... From Within is a digital production presented by the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company – the Drishtikon Dance Foundation. It consists of six short videos featuring Kathak and contemporary based on Kathak exponent Aditi Mangaldas and dancers from the Drishtikon repertory. It is a recreation of the dance company’s original production Within ‘and the artists’ current creative impulse from within the confines of their homes during the lockdown’.

The original Within was a production that highlighted the journey within, where you find your beloved. But in times like this, the journey within has had many shades. Firstly, a sense of relief within our homes, when we felt a little secure from the reach of the monster disease. Secondly, relief physically in our tired bodies, running around multi-tasking. Thirdly, a journey within our hearts, minds and souls to discern what the aim of our lives was, gradually slipping within, questioning everything material and social. Fourth, a feeling of claustrophobia within our homes when we could not step out; if you dared to, it would be all covered up in masks and gloves. Fifth, stifled in your minds and hearts, creativity, expression, performance took a grave blow. Sixth, again a calm within that your creative journey is more for yourself than for the others. These and many myriad emotions were brought out from within by the dancers.

Entwined: The first film featured Aditi and Tripti Gupta. Exploring our innermost spaces, where humanity and brutality, good and bad, are in embrace. In the movie, the visuals show sunrise over the sea. Aditi twirls and opens her arms gradually and then wraps them around herself slowly. In the images from Within, you see the dancer moving her hands rapidly to show her anguish, and in the present, you see her totally wrapped in a plastic sheet, moving her hands to free herself in order to breathe. Will she be able to do so? So far, humanity has not been able to shed their masks from their faces, still suffocated literally and figuratively, still finding their creative soul.

Meltdown: The second film featured Aditi, Gauri Diwakar, Minhaz Khan, Aamrapali Bhandari, Anjana Kumari, Manoj Sonagra, Sunny Shishodiya, Gaurav Bhatti, Diksha Tripathi and Tripti. Waiting to be disentangled, waiting to find expression in ways that shape our lives, our actions and ourselves. The starting is a very disturbing image of a dancer pressing on a translucent glass, looking almost like a monster. Next are scenes of chaotic running, running into a mirror and back, running with a plastic shroud, running in narrow alleys, juxtaposed with the chakkars in scenes of the stage performance of Within. In the next shot, you see dancers dancing on their terraces in front of huge water tanks. One dancer is depicted grotesquely as if encased in a glass of water. In the next shot, you see the dancer moving away from the glass that he was pressing on. With practice and performance spaces closed, the bodies of dancers are chaotically running around in the confined spaces of their homes, their creativity stifled and their bodies trying to adjust to the narrow spaces in their homes, where they are forced to dance. The only space where can loosen up and let go are their terraces, with the monster just waiting outside the window. 

A still from Meltdown

Enframed: Aditi is shown as a framed picture on the wall. Gradually, as she emotes to a song, you see two dancers in silhouette dancing on either side. The emotions that you see are either that the dancer finds herself a mere framed visage of her older self, the one who had danced in normal times, or that dancing in a limited frame of space makes you feel enframed. 

A still from Enframed

Wrapped: The fourth film features Aditi, Minhaz, Sunny, Manoj, Aamrapali, Anjana, Gaurav, Diksha and Tripti. You see multiple frames of dancers from Within which suddenly break down into images of the dancers themselves, with their faces wrapped, and then the dancers gradually unwrapping themselves. ‘Wrapped up in yourself, you hid from me. All day I looked, I found you within myself. I ran wild, playing now you, now me’ is what Aditi recites from the original Within. The dancers then remove their shrouds and find themselves free to dance again in multiple frames. He was within then, and within now too. Creativity cannot be wrapped up.
Unravel: This film features Aditi, Minhaz, Anjana, Manoj,Aamrapali and Diksha. In this video, in the beginning, what is captured is scared eyes staring through the peepholes, from the wire mesh on windows, and the emotions the dancers feel are fear, disgust, uncertainty and agitation. The captures from Within show continuous chakkars by the dancers. The monster of fear is still lurking inside, so take it head-on.

Impassion: This film features all the dancers from Meltdown except for Gauri. Aditi is in the frame taking chakkars and then you see Gaurav and other dancers taking chakkars in the confined spaces of their homes, juxtaposed with the chakkars in the production Within. And it appears that their bodies and souls have opened up to freedom, rising to take their leap to passion and sympathy for others. Gaurav’s last stance is suggestive of that sentiment.

You can watch the six films here:

These films were made in collaboration with Raw Mango and Teamwork Arts to raise funds for artists worst affected by the prohibition on performances in the COVID-19 pandemic. There are still almost three weeks to go – watch the films and please donate to help artists get through these unprecedented times.