I WRITE from my hospital bed in response to the article ‘How She Moves celebrates Pakistan’s rich heritage of classical dance (April 12; Dawn.Com), and wish to state that the documentary is the filmmakers’ expression of their ideas about my work, which are in complete contrast to my own ideas.
I am a dance-teacher and choreographer. I have taught in a mostly unfertile environment. My student/disciple, who is my pride and joy and the heir to my dance legacy, is my daughter, Tehreema. She has imbibed all that I had to teach in dance, and has grown beyond that in performance, theory and intellect, as is the ultimate desire of any teacher. She is a deeply dedicated classical dancer, second to none, with ideas for our times, which is what I consider my legacy to be.
Iftikhar Masih, from a modest and unlikely background, is devoted to the art, teaches dance, and has performed some of the most ancient Bharatnatyam dances. Feriyal Aslam is pursuing a career in dance scholarship, specifically my style. Feriyal, Iftikhar and Zahra Khalid continue to learn from Tehreema, who is my only student fully qualified to teach my style. Fauzia Malik continues to learn abroad from other teachers of the same Kalashetra style.
When we were encouraged by our funders to agree to this film, I was told it would be a record of the last performance of those students who were studying with me when I retired at the age of 87. But it was not.
First, the filmmakers followed only one of the students, whose dance work is far removed from mine, because her non-dance life was interesting. This was never discussed with me. I would never have agreed to it, as it is in complete opposition to what I consider my role as a teacher. I have never played favourites, except on merit. The film completely ignored my better students.
Secondly, it showed hardly any classical dance, which is what I am known for. Thirdly, what little dance there was, was set to western music, which is completely incongruous and a negation of my particular contribution to Bharatanatyam and of the Pakistani musicians who have contributed to this. With great difficulty, at my insistence, some clips were added, of Tehreema, other students, and of one of the ustads I had the honour to work with.
This film should not be considered a representation of me, my work or my students.
Indu Mariam Mitha
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2021