IM this article to a friend!

April 18, 2004

Standing Taal

From: Indian Express, India - Apr 18, 2004

Aparna Mannur can't hear the music but she is a flawless student of Bharatanatyam. Even the army will vouch for that.


Mumbai, April 18: She walks into the room and sits on the sofa beside her father-in-law with a tentative smile. Aparna Mannur is the subject of the interview, but her father-in-law does most of the talking.

But Aparna's kajal-lined eyes dance to a rhythm all her own, her body language in sync with taal. It's almost as if Bharatanatyam is she, and she Bharatanatyam.

Born to Anil and Neel Sanvastar in Aurangabad, Aparna lost her hearing to illness when she was just seven months old. Seven years later, her mother decided that Bharatanatyam was the language through which her daughter would find expression. ''It was difficult for her initially, but even as a child she took it up as a challenge,'' says Neel.

Now, at age 23, the young woman is a picture of inspiration. Married six months ago to Dombivli-based Ashutosh, her biggest fan is her father-in-law, R T Mannur.

''Aparna has a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Marathwada University. She also participated in the Abilympics in 2002 and 2003. Though Bharatanatyam isn't included in the Abilympics, Aparna was specially invited,' says Mannur.

''She was also invited to perform for our soldiers in New Delhi. More recently, she took part in a jugalbandi with two Bharatanatyam dancers in Chhattisgarh,'' adds Mannur, with obvious pride.

So how did Aparna make this miracle happen? Sheer concentration and willpower. Her guruji, Dr Jayant Shevante, says: ''I used no special technique and taught her like a regular student. I would show her the steps and ask her to follow me, step-by-step.'' But Dr Shevante did take up a short course in sign language just so that he could communicate with Aparna more effectively.

Aparna's husband Ashutosh stands in the passage, hanging on to every word of the conversation. A commercial artist, he too is deaf-mute. Right now, though, he is a picture of admiration.

© 2004: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.