It is never too late to learn anything new has been proven once again. Hyderabad-based Kathak dancer Archana Misra, began learning dance after the birth of her two children. Speaking to Natyahasini, Archana Misra, takes a quote from the Bollywood movie, Om Shanti Om, ‘Kehte hain kisi cheez ko dil se chaho… to puri kainaat usse tumse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai. (If you desire anything deep from your heart the whole Universe gets together to make it happen)’ And this holds true for Archana Misra. “It’s been a dream come true. I feel very fortunate that God is being very kind to me, he has given me such wonderful people in my life. I feel blessed. For Kathak, I must say, in the world of fusion dance forms, I have learnt to save an authentic part of India. It is my sole aim to spread this authenticity of Kathak from my respected Gurus to my students,” says the dancer.
Looking back at her dance journey till date, the Kathak dancer says that her dance journey has been very smooth. “Since childhood, I was always interested in dance. I would groove to Madhuri Dixit’s Bollywood numbers and took part in all cultural events in school. After entering college, my father did not allow me to participate in any dance programmes. Obviously, it was heart-breaking and depressing to just watch my friends dancing on stage but not me. Somehow, I overcame it,” she says.
After college, marriage and two children, by then many years had passed and the calling in the heart led Archana to join Kathak classes. She confesses that she joined Kathak classes to add some physical activity to her life and to be fit and avoid joining a gym. “One of my very close neighbours from Bhubaneswar, Kuntala Bhabhi, pushed me to join Kathak and it was very convenient for me because classes were conducted on weekends. That’s how my Kathak journey began, but at that moment I didn’t even think that Kathak will be my career,” says the dancer.
Family Support: Joining Kathak after becoming a mother of two, Archana reveals that everyone reacted differently. “My husband didn’t react much, because my classes were on weekends, so there was no issue to take care of kids and he is always by my side as a silent support system in whatever I do for my happiness. My father, obviously he reacted. Because being a dancer from a Hindu-Brahmin family is a taboo. That to a daughter from a family of teachers and professors was a big ‘No’ from his side, but he did not push me to leave dance because my husband supported me. Same thing from my in-laws too, as I always managed all my responsibilities efficiently,” she says.
She proudly says that today her father is very excited about her dance programmes. “After achieving so many awards, he introduces me to others as a Kathak dancer. I really feel blessed now, I always suggest everyone to ‘Listen to your heart’, it will be difficult initially but it will work as magic. I must not forget to mention my mother, she is a dreamer. She supported me during my school days and was happy when I joined Kathak. My sister is one of my biggest supporters, she took care of my kids in Bangalore when I went for classes. She was the one who pushed me to start teaching as I was not so confident. But my biggest support system are my kids. They have never troubled me, that’s why my dancing journey has been so smooth,” says Archana.
Even after staying in Berhampur for a long-time, why did she not learn Odissi, but took up Kathak. Archana says that her ancestors hailed from UP, Kanoj, some generations back. “My father was very strict about our career. As a taboo, girls from good families should not learn dance. That’s how I never got any opportunity to learn Odissi. My mother tried a lot to put me into Odissi classes, but she could not. Learning Kathak has been my destiny… Obviously as a biggest fan of Madhuri Dixit, dance attracted me and the most important part is that Golden Opportunity came to me and the rest is history,” says the Kathak dancer.
Wonderful Guru: Founder of Naad Bhed, Archana says that her first guru Jhuma Mukherji was a wonderful guru. “Though she is from Kolkata, she was the first Kathak guru in Odisha back then (2009). I learnt for a year under her guidance. Then in 2011, my husband was transferred to Bangalore, there I joined Abhinava Dance Company. It was an awesome learning experience. Though the institute belongs to Guru Nirupama and Rajendra, but most of my training was under Smt. Mridula Rao, the most senior disciple of Guru Nirupama Rajendra. I got some opportunity to perform with their team. Only lucky beginners get this special opportunity and I was one of them,” she says proudly.
Then in 2013, the Misras moved to Hyderabad, and Archana joined Guru Anju Babu. In 2016, she joined Guru Sanjay Kumar Joshi. “It has been a wonderful learning experience with Sanjay Sir with all his valuable knowledge. I got some opportunity to learn from the Legend of Kathak, Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj from various workshops held in Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Also, I have had the chance to learn from Vidushi Durga Arya, senior disciple of Birju Maharaj ji and from Dr. Puru Dadheech and Dr. Vibha Dadheech,” says the Hyderabad dancer.
Archana acknowledges that for a performer, certification isn’t necessary, but for a teacher it is. “The certificate isn’t for the sake of authorisation or certification, it is the process of exam pattern by which one can learn gradually from the Basics to the Advance level. In the process of learning, we master in Taal Padhant, Taal Rachana, Bol Banana and Shashtra too which develops our self-confidence through all of this, we learn to present the dance in a proper and appropriate way.”
Blessed To Perform: The Naad Bhed founder says that she has performed many times with her daughter. “It’s a heavenly feeling performing with my daughter. As a teacher, I’m very strict with her and now she has become a very good dancer. When she was six years, I wanted to put her in a Bharatnatyam class, but she said ‘No’. She wanted to learn Kathak, maybe because she has seen me dancing Kathak from her childhood. Now she is a grownup girl. Whenever anyone appreciates her for her abhinaya and sharp Chakkars (Spins), I feel very proud,” says the mother.
During her stay in Bangalore, the Kathak dancer armed herself with a NIFT degree and today designs clothes for herself, sister, daughter and costumes for the school annual shows. At one time, she was busy baking themed cakes. “I used to take baking orders, but since the past three years, I have stopped. Actually, I’m a theme cake specialist and it’s a very long process with lot of work. When my classes increased in number, I didn’t get time for baking. I have designed more than 100 different theme cakes,” she says.
On managing home, family, dance classes and programmes, Archana says: “It is actually difficult but after a certain period of time it will be a piece of cake. Everything is just in our mind, if our mind allows us to do, then one can do wonders. My husband used to work with a MNC as a Marketing Head, which involved a lot of travelling. He used to be on tours often, so it was only me, who single-handedly managed everything till now.” Before signing off, Archana says: “We all are here on Earth for a purpose and our strings are driven by the Supreme Power, he is the one who makes us do things.”