It’s not just positive crime stories that also have an audience: Mallika Sarabhai

NEW DELHI, (IANS) – “Isn’t it tragic that this is mainly a series about bloody crimes and criminals getting all the attention on OTT platforms? However, I am convinced that the content focused on goodwill has a large audience,” said dancer and actress Mallika Sarabhai, artistic director of “Darpana,” which is currently producing several pilots and will soon hit different digital platforms.

To be produced under the Darpana banner, the content aims to stop the narrative that only violence and crime drives people to binge-watch.

“It’s such a cliche that audiences don’t want to see stories revolve around the positive. We hope to address that and show an alternative – you can always choose compassion. But if you don’t give viewers that option, how are they supposed to pick her? Why do characters have to be horrible to do something cool,” asks award-winning Padma Bhushan.

Not only an actress and a dancer, Sarabhai, known for her social activism and her voice for democracy and her defense of different popular movements, stresses that she does not see any sense in associating art and social activism because they intersect for her at all levels.

“My work and my life are the same. There’s never a moment when I do something and my mind doesn’t rave about what I can create from that moment,” she said.

Sarabhai, who rose to international fame when she played the character ‘Draupadi’ in Peter Brook’s nine-hour theatrical production ‘Mahabharata’, admits it changed the very course of her life and she never wasn’t the same person after that.

“It made me realize that I had the power to make a difference. I had the confidence to become my own plasticine. It completely changed my trajectory and pushed me to become my own defendant. A deep journey to find my limits began. It’s not what Peter did to me. It’s what happened to Mallika, “recalls the artist.

While for most artists, the pandemic-induced lockdown ensured a lull in activities, but not Sarabhai.

“My artistic director, me, seven dogs and a peacock were on campus throughout. The highway next to us was completely silent. We fixed lights, had our own studio and our own spaces. So if you go to the Darpana YouTube channel, you’ll see a lot of our new stuff for 2021. We also went live the day the lockdown started. Our students haven’t really missed a single day of work/study. We produced a lot of material. Also, realizing how awful other dancers must feel, we did something called “Dance Unlocked,” where we got dancers from all over the country together and trained them on how to hold the camera, etc. through whatsapp.

On the condition of artists during confinement, she laments that India has never had a decent budget for the arts in the past 30 years.

“What little there is goes to the favourites. One wonders what the multiple academies are doing. The situation is deplorable. Think of what happened to the weavers who made the saris for the suits, the leather cleaners for the tables. Or the metallurgist who makes the ghungroos. When we talk about what Covid has done to art, you just see us. Not the hundreds of people behind us.

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