Found: Bhavantarana (and other lovely dance-related documentary clips!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012
I've found a 4.5-minute snippet from Kumar Shahani's documentary Bhavantarana ("Immanence," 1991) about the late Odissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra!  2012 is turning out to be the year of finding films from my obscure wish list post; last week I found Kann Sivandhaal Mann Sivakkum and this week has revealed a clip from Bhavantarana.

Here is the clip.  The first female Odissi dancer appears at 1:20 and then a young Odissi dancer can be seen starting at 1:42; the latter's performance is delightful! She dances while walking through a home until reaching the courtyard where her "guru" soon appears (guess who!). Kelucharan Mahapatra can finally be seen dancing at 3:32!

So why is the clip only 4.5 minutes?  The uploader is the "Public Diplomacy Division of India's Ministry of External Affairs" who created the channel to feature "a range of documentary films which have been commissioned by the Ministry of External Affairs over the last three decades. These documentary films showcase different facets of India..."  The reason the uploads are only excerpts is explained in the last line: "for purchasing full versions of the films shown here please contact"  Turns out a trip to the Division's website [no longer online] reveals a link to the website of the distributor "Under Construction" [no longer online] where DVDs of these programs can be found!  The DVD of Bhavantarana can be purchased for $30.

But who can complain about partial clips when their very existence on YouTube is a blessing!  I'm guessing that these documentaries were/are probably shown every so often on Doordarshan or other TV channels but until now were difficult to view independently.

What I've been most excited to discover is that outside of Bhavantarana there are other dance-related documentaries and documentaries with dance-content among the uploads!  Here are all the ones I've found:

Sanchari (1991, 30 min) - "A holistic view of the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam." Features a beautifully-introduced/filmed Bharatanatyam performance by Leela Samson.

Bamboo Flute (2000, 29 min)- Directed by Kumar Shahani. "A musical journey into the history, myth and evocations of the melodic rhythms of the flute..." Two dancers are featured; first, a classical dancer in practice sari is seen at 2:21 (she looks like Alarmel Valli but I'm not positive), and second, Kelucharan Mohapatra dances beginning at 3:57.

Beyond Tradition (2009, 60 min) - Looks at contemporary dance in India. Some beautiful dance segments are included; the modern take on Kathak at 1:40 is my favorite- an imaginative play on rhythm! While watching the hoop-dancer at the end I can only think of the similar dancer in the song "Baawre" from Luck by Chance :)

Pride of India: Mallika Sarabhai - Despite the hilarious voiceover by some white dude (I love how he pronounces Kuchipudi "coochie-poodie"), my favorite part of this video clip is the very first dance featuring a woman making a picture in sand with her feet!  A real-life example of the effect seen in movies like Konjum Salangai and Kadhalan!

Kuchipudi Revisited (1998, 60 min) - Directed by Yamini Krishnamurthy. "Swapna Sundari, one of the renowned exponents of Kuchipudi, traces the origin, evolution and changing nuances of the dance form..."

Rhythmic Echoes and Reflections (2003, 30 min) - "Explores the universality of various dance forms like Kathak, Flamenco, American Tap Dance, European Ballet and Australian Ballet" with Kathak artist Shovana Narayan leading.

Kalarippyat (2002, 35 min) - Explores the martial art form of Kerala, Kalaripayyattu. Don't miss the fully costumed dancer at 2:00.


  1. Awesome work! would be even better if someone magically posted the full docs on youtube....(cough)cram(cough) ? :)


  2. Here is one on Kalamandalam Gopi

  3. Rameshram - Nicely veiled hint there! O cram, hear our pleas! ;)

    Dreamcatcher - Hello! That is a lovely documentary - coincidentally, it was uploaded by the very cram that Rameshram and I are pleading to above! He's got some great finds doesn't he. :)

    Ragothaman - Thanks for the confirm! She looks quite different to me- maybe it's the lack of stage makeup?

  4. Hi Minai,
    I cannot thank you enough for posting these video links. I have seen some of the documentaries and getting hold of any information about them has been a tough task. My two cents after seeing these videos.
    1. The documentary Sanchari about Leela Samson is a beautiful one. If you can get hold of the DVD, please do watch. Some libraries in US do have copies around.
    2. In the video the lighting is poor, Alarmel Valli's smile can be identified in a dark room. Yes, she looks different without makeup. Her trademark smile gives her away.
    3. In "Beyond tradition", the hoop dancer IS Isha Shaarwani, daughter of dancer Daksha Seth (the person in green sari, who talks before the hoop dance). No wonder you found the similarity with the 'Luck by Chance'.
    4. I never knew that Yamini Krishnamurthy had directed a docu/movie on Kuchipudi. As far as I remember reading her biography it does not mention this. I am glad I came to know about this.
    5. Also, nice to see a younger leela venkatraman and Vendantam Satyanarayana Sastry.
    6. The drawing of the lion with feet through dance is called Simhanandi, probably you might know this. It is considered as a testing skill of a Kuchipudi dancer. A rare skill these days.
    7. The last link is most likely showing a Theyyam performance that incorporates the Kalaripayyattu.

    In any case, I enjoyed watching these teasers. :)

  5. ragothaman - Thank you for all the information and reactions - a very nice read. Wow, the hoop dancer is the same woman as in Luck by Chance? No wonder I found a resemblance! The thought had crossed my mind but I figured it was too slim a chance to be true. :) I didn't know the name of the feet drawing in Kuchipudi dance at all (or if someone told me once I've forgotten), so I'm excited that you mentioned that. It looks like its variously called Simhanandini/Simhanandana/Simhanandani depending on the source- now I have a name and can do some research! Thanks again!

  6. Wow! More gems! Yes, that's definitely Alarmel Valli. The first dancer in the Kelucharan Mohapatra documentary looks like Sanjukta Panigrahi, but I'm not sure.

    1. Isabel - Yay! Two confirmations now that it is Alarmel Valli so I think that mystery is solved. :) Ah, so the first dancer might be the famous Sanjukta Panigrahi, interesting! The dancer whose identity I'm most curious about in that video is the young girl- she has such contagious spirit and is a complete natural at the dance form. Thanks for all your wonderful comments, cheers!

  7. Thank you for such wonderful links. The full "Bhavantarana" I think was recently posted up on youtube @

    1. La_Surrealiste - Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou! Oh how wonderful- I had not noticed it was posted yet, so I'm elated you brought this to my attention! I've now watched the whole thing and just did a post on it. Thank you again. Such a treasure. And you weren't kidding about "recently" - it's only two days old! :)


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