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Dance Like A Man, the story retold

You walk in knowing you will be spellbound (the name of the play and the cast is enough of a hint), and you walk out knowing that no stories should go untold. There’s the working mother’s guilt and the dichotomy of control. There’s patriarchy and the unspoken truths of a marriage. There’s the living of a dream through a child’s life, and there’s the strife between passion and making a living. And then there’s the constant, ongoing debate on what good can arts do for you.

Even in 2023, as we sit to watch the 671st show of the aptly and hugely acclaimed show, Dance Like A Man, the topics addressed seem sadly relevant and current. How often do we allow our children to pursue arts? Yes, it can be a hobby, a plan B, but never a career. How often do we accept a man dancing away his heart? Or a mother, who leaves her child (for work) to be attended by a nanny?

We may be changing, but it’s a long way until the narrative changes, and Dance Like A Man, speaks the sentiment. Written by Sahitya Academy Award-winning writer Mahesh Dattani, the play was directed by the veteran theatre actress Lillette Dubey, and the cast included Lillette, Ananth Mahadevan, Suchitra Pillai, and Joy Sengupta.

A woman in a man’s world is considered progressive, but a man in a woman’s world is considered pathetic.

The prostitutes at the brothel should be recognised for keeping the arts alive…

Amongst the many takeaways from witnessing the brilliance of Dance Like A Man on a Sunday evening (October 1) at Emirates Theatre, Emirates International School, Dubai, these dialogues (non-verbatim) are just a few. A 90-minute production and the characters/actors owned the stage and the attention of the audience, which in the era of OTT and smartphones is a tough one to hold.

We laughed as Joydeep played Vishwas, as he hoped to tie the knot with Lata, the young, upcoming dancer, and daughter of artists Ratna and Jairaj. Joydeep’s comic antics peppered the otherwise heavy theme of the play. And his instant switch to play the younger Jairaj, left one awestruck. Ananth’s performance as Jairaj and his father, Amritlal, the dominant head of the family, who believes that ‘dance’ as a profession is unfitting for a man, is one for the books. The smooth transition between the body language, the mannerisms, the accent, and more only goes to show why he continues to be an actor we can never get tired of watching. Suchitra’s switch between playing her character, Lata, and, and the younger Ratna — and the freshness and grace, with which she brings alive the innocence of the former, and the complexities of the latter, is another reason to watch the play again when it comes to the city next!

How does one address stereotypes, egos, and ambitions of the three generations of one family? Well, you do it as the cast of Dance Like A Man executed it under the guidance of director and actor Lillette, who brought alive multi-faced aspects of Ratna’s character — a mother, who’d do anything to see her daughter grow, a professional dancer, who has no qualms in putting her dreams and goals on the same page as her ‘responsibilities’ as a wife, daughter-in-law, mother, and a ‘socialite’ who’d leave you charmed for her gain, and more.

It’s never easy to ‘review’ a work of art, and I don’t wish for this to be known for one. Here’s to phenomenal storytelling and keeping the arts alive.

P.S: The reviews that are out on time, the next day itself, are either ‘paid' for, or 'were written before the show'! You will get the joke, once you see the play the next time it comes to Dubai. In this case, the review is out on time for why wait an extra minute to celebrate, and applaud brilliance?

The event was brought to Dubai by the organiser Jyoti Easwaran and Global Konnekt.

Here's more on the play on The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats, which celebrates the colour, culture and chaos of India:

Disclaimer: This is a place where we applaud artists and arts. We serve as a platform, motivator and a pat on the back for anyone, who believes in the simple fact that we need arts more than anything else in the world; something many of us realised especially during the pandemic when we looked up to books, movies, arts of all forms as a means to find peace and reconnect with ourselves. But mostly, we acknowledge that being an artist/artiste/creator is a lonely, tough job. Whilst the world assumes it is a fancy job, it mostly revolves around lack of support, anxiety, an unbelievable amount of hard work, and a constant struggle to fight the 'create for exposure' element of modern society. Yet, somehow, it's the only thing that helps you make sense of the world. This is our tiny attempt to support the creative souls.


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