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  • Writer's pictureMouli Pal

Tribhanga…deflected but poised, not “Tedhi-Medhi”

“Tribhanga-Tedhi Medhi Crazy” is a recent Netflix release that has spurred a lot of attention on Odissi dance. Immediately on its release I was asked by many to watch the movie which I did and enjoyed thoroughly.

However, our society is immensely influenced by Bollywood films and actors and we often unwittingly assume them as benchmarks in our perception. So, being an Odissi exponent I felt the need to clarify few aspects about Odissi dance and dancers especially for dance connoisseurs.

The film explores the complex relationship and journey of three generation of women and dramatically relates their characters to three postures used in Odissi dance. My intention is not to critique the movie or characters but to offer a few important facts to enhance the understanding of Odissi:

- The film depicts three postures Abhanga, Sama Bhanga and Tribhanga. There is also a fourth posture Chouka Bhangi which is a square based stance and very frequently used.

The Chouka Bhangi, Photo Courtesy : Ganesh Davuluri

- Tribhanga is a posture where the torso is deflected to one side but it is not truly “Tedhi-Medhi” which is hindi for twisted and unbalanced. One has to acquire immense control and learn how to balance the weight of the entire body on one side to achieve the posture.

- In one of the scenes the actress mentions the Late Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. In that scene the actress casually has her feet up on the table. Indian Classical dancers inherently have supreme reverence for the Guru and when referring to Him one would not be sitting in a disrespectful position.

- The concluding scene shows the actress wearing her ghungroos – ankle bells. All classical dancers hold tremendous respect for the ghungroos and before tying them always offer their respect by doing Namaskar before tying them on the feet.

The Abhanga, Photo Courtesy : Ganesh Davuluri

Finally, the central character is portrayed as an accomplished Odissi dancer who was awarded the Padma Shri (fourth highest civilian award in India), and she is constantly seen swearing, restless, insensitive and much more. I understand that it is a cinematic depiction based on the storyline of the character’s disturbed childhood. Yet, for over 25 years I have personally known numerous Odissi dancers with turbulent personal lives and they have always come across as dignified, elegant and poised individuals.

In reality, through Odissi we find stability among all imperfections of life. The dance has the power to heal so we are able to rise and emerge calm and grounded.

The Tribhangi..deflected but Poised, PC: Ganesh Davuluri

Indian Classical dance is a higher art form and when depicting it in a film I hope the creators are more sensitive to the values it embodies.

Again, my purpose is not to critique the film as it is overall well made. My goal is only to emphasize what I teach and practice but see it being conflicted in the film. In the end I am glad that a Bollywood film raised much needed awareness about Odissi.

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