Nrityagram: The Love of Dance
In the film Nrityagram: The Love of Dance, a short and simple story is told. A woman finds purpose in her was life when she learns how to dance and creates an institute to instruct others. It is the story of Protima Bedi and her Nrityagram Dance Ensemble. Protima Bedi was known in India as a socialite, until she saw a Narissi Dance and came to pursue it instead. A woman who was known as an emotionally vibrant and open person, pursues a dance form that is tells the story of feelings more than anything else. Bedi’s candidness found a new outlet.
Having found her own guru and learnt the dance, Bedi decided to create an institution to train the gurus of the future. In the Indian tradition, princes and prophets would go to gurus to learn their trades—archery or spirituality. The institute Bedi created, Nrityagram, is intended as an equivalent for dance. Women and girls can go there to focus on their craft, learn from the gurus, practicing everyday unconcerned with the world outside.
In terms of form, there is not much substance to the film. I imagine that it would be useful in an instructional setting; a dance teacher doing a unit on Narissi dance may show this film before proceeding to instruct her students on the basic steps. In twenty-five introductory minutes, one learns about Bedi, the creation of Nrityagram, and Narissi in the broadest of strokes. The short snippets of dance intrigue but do not inform as none last more than a minute or two and are mostly spoken over. It is therefore hard to relate to this film or to relate this film to feminism.
That being said, first Protima Bedi is portrayed as a woman before her time; second, women’s learning of dance is explicitly compared to men seeking their gurus. In that way, this is a feminist work as it portrays women as distinct yet equal in their methods. Each seeks his or her own guru.