Annjali Shah talks about her new show ‘Chandini & Roshni’ – a performance that was inspired by the characteristics of her two sisters, and a show with a life of its own as Annjali chartered through the set-up of the storyline and choreography. She shares an insight into the making of the performance.
On September 11th and 12th, an audience of Kathak enthusiasts gathered at the Théâtre du Passage in Neuchâtel to enjoy yet another beautiful performance ‘Chandni and Roshni’ by Annjali Shah.
True to her nature, Annjali based her inspiration on reality, and let the evolving situation and scenario shape her performance: Chandini – a reflective of moonlight and Roshni – depictive of sunlight.
This time, her characters were inspired by her two elder sisters, Chandrika and Devika. She says, “I took a few things that they like in real life. For instance, Chandrika likes water and she loves to swim. I always admire her elegance, so she became ‘Princess Chandini’. Devika likes to walk in the forest, especially in autumn, when the trees are turning golden. I’ve always admired her knowledge of plants. A biologist in real life, she was the inspiration behind ‘Magician Roshni’.”
She elaborates, “Being the youngest one in the family, both my sisters took care of me when I was a child. They let me do some mischief – slightly more than the threshold allowed by our parents… they also used to take care of me at bedtime. So, one character in the performance ensures that kids sleep well without nightmares; the other makes sure that children are always inspired to make a little mischief.”
Mapping the creative mind
Once she created her characters and chose the angle of interest she wanted to work with, she started thinking about how to express it in the perfect way, understandable to the Swiss audience.
How does a creative mind really work? There is a lot of effort that goes into the making of a show – but what really ticks within the mind of the creator?
Talking about the time and effort, Annjali tells us, “To create a show takes me around one year. It begins with the title and the concept. Then, it is very diverse work : a long administrative process to ask for grants, plan and organise the photo shoots for the promotion of the show, research ideas for the costumes, inspiration for the set, book the place to perform, listen to music, create the different sets of choreographies, teach them to my students, ameliorate the scenarios, put the poster and flyers around the city, go for interviews…
And then – finally the weekend of the show arrives… and THAT is a very happy moment!” she sighs.
“I plan my shows by cutting out the scenario into, what I call, ‘dancing pictures’. So, this performance had 10 ‘dancing pictures’ that I conceptualized. The storyteller tells the story and the dancers perform to illustrate what he says. I then looked for the music and the ambiance for each of my ‘dancing pictures’. I also wanted to involve my students so I chose songs that they love to dance on.
This concept of ‘dancing pictures’ makes it a little easier to teach the choreography; one ‘dancing pictures’ at a time to the students of Neuchâtel, another to the students of Biel, and a third to the performing kids.”
Enthusiastically, she continues, “Creating a show needs balance, the audience should see that sequence of dancing pictures, with elegant characters. The colours should be joyful, but not heavy for the eyes. And of course, there should be some actual themes as a basis of the performance. This time, I wanted a show with a modern twist. We chose a very clean design with rose petals in the front and a white background to play with the light. The costumes had a refined look.”
Performance in this unique situation
With three professional artists, the storyteller Olivier Nicola, Flavia Dubois and Annjali, there were five adult students and five children between 9 to 12 years old who performed together. Previously, they had 6 adult students, but fell short of one due to illness.
This was the second show Annjali has performed through the tough Covid situation – the earlier one being a solo performance called ‘Namak’. “We were really lucky with ‘Chandini & Roshni’ as we could just perform before the new rule of Covid restrictions was placed. Hence, we could accommodate the theatre up to 3/4ths its capacity – the maximum that we were allowed due to Covid rules at the time. The response of the audience was very good, they appreciated the show. Of course, the families of the students came and they were proud to see their family members on stage.
She concludes this interview with a note of gratitude: “I am always very thankful to my two gurus Sandhya Desai and Sharmila Sharma for believing that I can be a dancer. This instils in me a lot of confidence as it also gives me the patience and the perseverance necessary. And needless to say, a massive thanks to my husband and family, who are my true greatest supporters and form my biggest support system. A special thanks to the dancer Mamata Shankar, daughter of Uday Shankar for allowing us to project an extract of the movie ‘Kalpana’ with the dance of Uday and Amala Shankar.”
So… how was the show?
“How can I rate it? That’s for the audience to tell,” she says with a smile, radiating charm and confidence.
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