A Devout Dancer

fasih ur rehmanA discipline of Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak, Fasih-ur-Rehman has been carrying on the legacy of the great Kathak maestro through sheer hard work, self-discipline and dedication for the last 25 years.

How do you see life?

I feel life is the way you see and take life to be. Life is what you want to do with it and if you get to do what you love and your intention is true, then that is what life is all about. Intention something, not necessarily in the field or arts, but in whatever you do if you are true to it – that is what life is all about.

What does dance mean to you?

Dance is everything it is life. I don’t see dance regard to my life. Dance is just not a part of my life but for me it is life…

Tell us about your journey of 25 years in this field of classical dance?

What can I say? The ups and downs in this field are known to all, but overall I am very happy. It is a great journey and Inshallah will keep going smoothly because I have decided to keep on doing this. I was made for dance.

What do you thing you have lost or gained being in this profession?

I don’t think I have lost anything, only gained. People like my work, they are happy to see my work, and that in itself is a great feeling. But what I have gained personally is difficult to explain in words. I would say when one gets to do what one wants to do in life, then one gains internal peace despite the tensions of everyday living. I feel that peace of mind and happiness is the biggest thing that I have gained in this profession.

You have been imparting the art of Kathak to the younger generation for years, but do you think that today’s generation has the drive, dedication, focus and passion to follow through?

I try my level best to impart the knowledge that I have to pupils, encouraging them to take it further. But to what level they want to take it or would like to take it professionally is their call. I can’t really force them. Of course everyone can’t be completely focused, but I do have a few students who are dedicated and want to pursue dance as a career; however somewhere down the line reality sets in. the situation of our country is not so conducive to patronage of the arts and most of the time it is difficult to think of becoming a dancer. But I am not saying that one shouldn’t think about taking this as a profession, because when you want to achieve something in life, you find ways and means to do so. I am not bragging about myself, but after all I also became a dancer, no matter what problems I faced. It is all part and parcel of the field.

Do you think the diminishing Guru-shagird relationship is the key cause of the deterioration of this art form in Pakistan?

I do not agree with this point. The Guru-shagird relationship that existed earlier is not there anymore, but it just needs to be developed. Its basic rules should be followed, but the teacher as well as the student needs to change with the times. Take the example of my guru, Maharaj Kathak, who was an icon in his own right and never tried to overpower me. I never felt he was forcing me in any way. Both of us knew where to draw the line; a mutual respect was definitely there. One just has to develop a relationship trust and understanding.

Classical dance is a graceful form of art, but the latest trend of kujrastyle music videos seems to degrade it. What is your say on that?

Personally I don’t have anything against any form of dance or music, be it filmi, pop or otherwise. But if one wants to show the old-time classic songs, they can be done in a less crude, better way. The songs of Pakeeza, for example, were actually choreographed by big names and gurus of the time. Meena Kumari was trained by them, that is how she came out so graceful on screen. What I say is if one is making a video the least one can do is ask a person who has the know-how to help out in choreography. The problem here is that people think they know everything – mediocrity rules.

Have you ever performed to modern music?

I have never experimented with modern music but I did develop a Katha (story) incorporating music (a symphony) by Sabastian Bach. It was a beautiful piece on which I made a story about a mother and her child. I think that was an attempt by me to be different. I haven’t used pop music and God forbid that I ever end up doing such a thing (ha ha ha)… Experimenting is not wrong, but there is a think line in between. One can do many different things while experimenting, but one should know where to stop.

How do you feel about performing to recorded music?

Musicians are a central part of a performance. My musicians have been with me since the beginning so a certain understanding has developed between us. As for recorded music, due to the unavailability of live musicians I have performed to recorded music, but somehow it is not that same. With live music, a mood us built up while performing. The biggest advantage of live music is that you can improvise, and if you want to perform a certain piece it can be done then and there. Recorded music is fixed, and therefore cannot be improvised on.

Have you ever tried any other classical dance form?

The essence of all dance forms is the same but the style of performing is different. One can’t hop from one genre to another. I feel it is next to impossible to shift focus constantly – you should be true to one form.

Society in general and the government in particular have always failed to patronize dance. What future do you foresee for yourself as a dancer and for classical dance in Pakistan?

The dance scenario has improved considerably as compared to previous times and hopefully things will get better needs to support it and be more lenient, though I have to say the government today seems much more relaxed. Everyone has been saying for ages that dance has not been getting its due. But I feel that a proper institution, no matter if it is small or big, should be there to impart the knowledge of dance. The stress should just be on dance, not any other form of art. There are cultural centers, which impart dance training, but what is happening there is that they hire dancers and tell them to come every day to take a class and once in a while they perform when foreign delegations come; Aap agar naach lay hey toh koi baat na hui… So a proper institute is the need of the day. Opportunities to perform or go abroad to study should be given. That is the only way to develop an interest among students, otherwise it’s very difficult to gain patronage from the government only. As a dancer, whatever growth as an artiste I have had was achieved through my own personal efforts. Dance is a passion for me and whatever I have earned form my performance I have spent that on learning more and more.

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