Celebrated dancer Purnima Ghosh shares her fitness secrets at 80

At 80, the world still revolves around dancing, be it on stage or at home, and teaching her students at Surangama, Kolkata. Ahead of her performance at Kalyani Book Fair, we had a quick chat with her.

Dharitri Ganguly Published :  26th November 2022 11:00 PM   |   Published :   |  26th November 2022 11:00 PM
Purnima Ghosh performs on stage

Purnima Ghosh performs on stage

Purnima Ghosh started learning dance when she was only 6. Her father was her first guru. She never took any liking to study or going to school, rather, her world revolved around dancing. At 80, the world still revolves around dancing, be it on stage or at home, and teaching her students at Surangama, Kolkata. Ahead of her performance at Kalyani Book Fair, we had a quick chat with her. Excerpts:

You have formal training in several Indian dance forms. What are those?

I learnt Bharatanatyam from Maruthapa Pillai, the first Bharatanatyam teacher to visit Kolkata. Later I took Kathak classes from a guru who stayed at our place. Later, when I visited Delhi for dance direction, I decided to learn Odissi under the aegis of a renowned Odissi dancer. I took formal Manipuri training from T Nadiya Singh, who used to teach at the dance academy (now, Rabindra Bharati university) at Jorasanko. But guru Sailajaranjan Majumdar’s presence and teachings have been the most helpful in my life. Everything I know about Rabindra Nritya, how to incorporate and do Kandyan dance, I learnt from him. I have never been to Santiniketan but see my productions, you would never be able to differentiate that. And here I am, still attached to the music school that he established. I joined Surangama in 1962.

Purnima Ghosh during her younger days

Quite strangely, you have learnt Manipuri from the very start, but teach Bharatanatyam. Why's that?

I feel Manipuri is in my blood, but I have learnt Bharatanatyam. And if I don’t practise or teach it, I will just forget everything. I have learnt one whole course, but haven’t forgotten a wee bit of it. So, practice is the key.

When people complain of aches and restrictive movements after they turn 35, how do you still manage to dance with so much grace? 

Yoga has been beneficial for me. I need my meals and sleep on time, and try to maintain it. I don’t attend late-night events, make sure to go off to sleep by 10.30, and wake up early. I start my day with lukewarm lemon water, nuts and pranayam. I also need my one-hour nap.

Bhanusingher Padabali is an integral part of you. You have portrayed Radha many times, and yet, you well up, every time. Why so? 

I think the audience would know that better, I don’t know really, I travel to an altogether different zone. Probably it’s the lyrics, the melody. I remember my acquaintances whom we have lost. I remember, at a show in Mumbai, I had to perform Marana re Tunhu mamo twice on stage, while the brilliant Ashoktaru Bandopadhyay sang it for me. I also believe that as one grows old, he/she matures, even with creative ideas. They tend to think deeply about the songs or poems that they are performing. I learn every day…maybe the song is the same that I have performed for years, yet I discover it anew every day. And thus, I cry a little more with every performance.

Do you relate yourself to Radha?

I do. I don’t know why, but I do. When the songs play and I am on stage, I think of someone who was supposed to come but didn’t come. I feel and perform from my heart, and as a result, get overly emotional.

Are the newer generations still so passionate and emotional about dance?

I don't know about all of them, but I usually get to meet two sets of people….seniors, who try to learn to dance quickly and take it up as a profession, and the little ones for the sake of earning some certificates. People are in a rat race, and they need to come out of it to feel and learn about anything that they are doing.

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