Dancer, singer and actor DEVIKA BHISE believes that understanding one art form helps to get better know-how about other art form. That’s the reason she can easily switch from Bharatnayam to jazz singing to acting in Hollywood movies. In conversation with
NT BUZZ she speaks about Bharatnatyam dance, how it helps her in acting and portraying role of Janaki, wife of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan in the movie, ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’, opposite Dev Patel
BY ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
Performing traditional Bharatnatyam dance on stage, singing for jazz events and acting in Hollywood film as a lead actor, is the profile of the dancer, singer and actor Devika Bhise, who is all set to perform here in Goa on February 27, during the opening of the Sadir Theatre Festival at Kala Academy, Panaji.
“I will be performing ‘Shringar Lahiri’ which is invocation of the goddess through my Bharatnatyam dance on the opening day of the Festival”, says Devika who is not new to the Goan audience as she has performed on various occasions here, mainly for jazz events.
For Devika learning Bharatnatyam was quite natural as her mother, Swati Bhise who is an acclaimed Bharatnatyam dancer. But, it was not so easy for Devika. “I started learning Bharatnatyam at the age of four, as I grew up in the environment where I was surrounded by it. But, initially, my mother was not keen on being my guru as it would have got complicated. But, one fine day she heard me singing varnam, at that point she knew I was serious about it and decided to teach me Bharatnatyam”, says Devika who has performed Bharatanatyam as a soloist at an array of venues in New York including Lincoln Center, Asia Society, Symphony Space, and Danny Kaye Playhouse.
Devika who is born and brought up in the USA was exposed to other styles of music such as jazz, modern dance, hip-hop, and salsa. However, she confirms that learning Hindustani Classical music at the age of five, as she was learning Bharatnatyam, helped her to learn jazz. “In school I was exposed to western classical music and sang for A Cappella (singing without musical instruments) where I came across “old school jazz”. Due to my knowledge of Hindustani Classical music where you improvise on ragas and start from down beat, I realised that it is similar to jazz, where you to tend to improvise”, says Devika.
Devika believes that all art forms are related to each other and she can’t look at that exclusively. It is this interconnectivity that drew her towards acting as in Bharatnatyam dance there is focus on ‘abhinaya’ or acting.
Devika who has acted in few Hollywood films such as ‘The Accidental Husband’ and ‘Anamika: Her Glorious Past’, will now portray the role of Janaki, wife of an Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan on big screen for a movie titled, ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’. “It is for the first time that I am doing a lead role. Bharatnatyam helped me to get this South Indian character”, says Devika who is paired opposite Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire fame.
The movie is based on famous Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who hailed from Chennai. It is set for a May 2015 release.
Speaking about her role she maintained that it was not easy. She not only had to portray a traditional Indian woman’s role, but also had to work on her body language and outfits as it is a period drama. “The movie is set in 1910 and my character, Janaki, used to wear nine-yard sari. I am not very comfortable in this outfit, but in the movie I had to show that I am very comfortable in it, as that’s the only outfit she is wearing. Regarding body language, it was easier due to my knowledge of ‘abhinaya’ we do in Bharatnatyam dance. I also met the author of the book, Robert Kanigel, on whose book ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ the movie is based. Robert had met Janaki when she was very old. I interacted with him to know more about the character”, says Devika.
Devika while speaking about the diction in the movie informed that in the movie they have not followed the South Indian dialect. “We have kept the generic dialect to make it more appealing to the western audience. Also the movie is in English and my character Janaki never spoke English in her life. That’s why we didn’t focus on South Indian dialect”, says Devika.
When asked about acting with Dev Patel she says, “It was like working with any other actor. I don’t get star-struck.”
Devika, who is just starting her career in Hollywood, mentions that women still do not get paid well or equally, even in Hollywood. “The roles you get are of certain type. The grey and complex roles are very few. But, now the scene is changing. If we look at the Best Actress winners of past two or three Oscar Awards, the roles were very complex. Also in Bollywood there is a change as now there are movies likes ‘Mary Kom’, which is a biopic on a strong woman and also Rani Mukherjee’s ‘Mardani’ are few examples”, says Devika.
On a concluding note when asked whether she is open for Bollywood films, she says, “I grew up in States and I am ‘NRI’ and I am raised on Hollywood movies and not Bollywood movies. I am more comfortable with Hollywood culture. I must have watched 3000 Hollywood films compared to may be just 24 Bollywood movies. My style of acting is more Hollywood than Bollywood. But, at the same time I want to add that it depends on the role at the end of day, whether it is an Italian or a Bollywood film”, says Devika.