Documentary “The Journey from Sadir to Bharatanatyam”

After giving us an excerpt more than two years ago, this documentary is long overdue for watching in its entirety. Comparing and contrasting the past and the present Viveka Chauhan documents how the Sadir changed into the current BN. Thanks to PSBT for letting us unfortunate ones to see this finally on YT!

After watching it, I felt the documentary was able to drive the crucial messages; Aranyani Bhargav’s journey to the world of devadasis, viewpoints from the members of traditional families, sprinkling thoughts from scholars. On the outset, it is a well balanced documentary that tries to squeeze an ancient tradition into 35 mins! A feat indeed.

However, I am dismayed at how Sadanand Menon calls the “devadasi caste”! Were they really a caste? Scholars such as Saskia Kersenboom, B. M. Sundaram, Thaiyammal Aravaanan, and others have pointed out that the devadasi were never a caste! It was a Marabu (மரபு), loosely translated as “tradition”. It is wrong to label them as a caste (ஜாதி). Why is the myth/misconception of devadasis as a caste being still continued? Imagine someone who has no knowledge of dance history is viewing this documentary and propagates this misconception further. Gah!

One take home lesson that dancers could really try to remember is the vilambita kalam of varnam.  Go to timestamp 12:00 and hear what Indira Rajan has to say.

Here watch it for yourself!


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