The Dance of the Nautch Girls

Impressive: Adnana Mallik, Kumud Merani and Pip Moore

By Gita Malik

On the eve of August 21 when the election results kept many people glued to television at home, Enmore theatre was abuzz with an equally eager crowd ready for an evening of dance and drama.   There was an excitement in the foyer as friends waited for each other before they settled into their seats looking forward to an evening of entertainment with a touch of nostalgia.

The title and publicity was a teaser, the Indian word being ”˜nach’ brought song and dance to the mind.  The flyer promoted a story of a time of when Indian had a strong influence of the Mogul period that was enjoyed by the British Raj.

The stage opened with Tarana Jaan (Kumund Merani) puffing on her hooka in a room that would have been regal in the good old days.    The gaudy sharara, caged parrot, paan walla outside and a loyal servant were hangovers from prime of her life.  Deborah, played by Pip Moore, a young Australian girl goes to Lucknow to research the life of the Nautch girls following her heart and from the stories that her grandfather told. Deborah’s enquiring mind probes Trarana Jann to narrate her tales of the past time.

Recounting all the famous legends over the three generations, Tarana paints a pretty picture of the art of Kathak dancing and the melodious Ghazal and Thumri.  40 dazzling dancers on stage provided with a visual into the art and etiquette of the life of the dancing girls.   Costumes, jewelery and make-up the decked up girls were on par with any from an actual Bollywood production.

Produced by Ms. Kumud Mirani, Executive Producer at the SBS and Ms. Ruchi Sanghi, founder of Kathak school in Australia provided the art lovers and bollywood buffs an informative evening full of fun and history. Kumud researched the topic for 8 months and read numerous books to weave an interesting tale. The story (fiction) and the history (facts) portrayed the daring life of the tawaifs.

The light hearted wit underlying the drama linking the yarn to the current environment in Australia brought it towards the reality to home a reminder of the recent student problem. Abdul Miyan, (Adnana Mallik) the young servant was the instant darling of the audience! This young man has a natural sense of humour with the perfect timing.

The Nautch Girls provided an extra treat to the audience in the form of live music with Tabla Guru Abhjit Daan . The female singer with a mellifluous and faultless Classical style was Aparna Bellaves. What a captivating voice she had as she rendered Ghazal after Ghazal. Undoubtedly, the live music in this show was an  added attraction.

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