(Last Updated on : 18/05/2018)
Mallika Sarabhai is one of the most renowned Kuchipudi
dancers in India today. She is the daughter of a classical dancer
Mrinalini Sarabhai and space scientist Vikram Sarabhai
. Mallika is an accomplished dancer
and performer who has specialized in using the arts
for social change and transformation.
Early Life of Mallika Sarabhai
Mallika Sarabhai was born in Ahmedabad
to Vikram Sarabhai and Mrinalini Sarabhai. She completed her Master of Business Administration
from Indian Institutes of Management, Ahmedabad in 1974 and Doctorate in Organisational Behaviour from the Gujarat University
in 1976. She is a famous choreographer
and dancer and has also acted in a few Hindi
and international films.
Career of Mallika Sarabhai
At a very young age Mallika Sarabhai started to learn dancing. When she was only 15 years, she started her film career in parallel cinema. She has played the role of Draupadi
in Peter Brooke's film 'Mahabharata', which was made in English
and French. After completing her graduation, Mallika entered into the world of performing arts
following the footsteps of her mother.
In her dancing career she has rejected items which she feels stem from overtly patriarchal periods and which represent women
as subservient, and has put together pieces celebrating the strength of the Goddesses
of the Hindu
pantheon. This is the main element of her performance life, whether at international festivals
or local cultural events, and the warmth and life with which she influences these forms keeps her much in demand. It was Mrinalini Sarabhai who first used the Bharatanatyam vocabulary to speak of moods and themes before this in Indian dance
. She talked of bride burning and of pollution in her dance drama
s. Mallika performed in these and absorbed the ideas.
She has started to choreograph herself, her company and even her mother from the last decade. She drew on many elements to create her own choreographic vocabulary, which has been expressed through her work. She studied martial art
forms from South India
and from North East India
. She observed and stylized everyday movements and gestures until she could create pieces. Her works are 'Thattukazhi' or 'rites of passage of a woman (Ceremony I")' are the reaction to communal violence in India ("Mean Streets on Earth"). She is still experimenting with other music
, with video accompaniment, with multi-arts forms. In a very real sense, these interdisciplinary works are deeply in the tradition of Indian performance, and now these works too are being invited around the world.
Multi faced Mallika's work as theatre maker has evolved into a new and vital form that challenged people's preconceptions. Historical and contemporary female figures had stunning effect on audiences as an evolution of mythology led to a second piece, "Sita's Daughters". It was even harder hitting piece about women although often very funny, who refuse to accept an oppressive system. This piece was performed all over India from slums to metropolitan festivals and has been invited to Singapore, USA and Britain. Mallika Sarabhai in order to fling light on the matters of cultural manipulation using those similar skills, with which she made an impression, teamed up with Nigerian performer Peter Badejo and staged "Itan Kahani- The story of stories". In April '99 came "In Search of the Goddess" commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Other acclaimed works are 'Aspiration', 'Ganga', 'Surya' etc.
Mallika is the co-director of 'Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in Ahmedabad, a unique centre for the arts along with her mother. The institute has performed all over India and all around the world. Today the academy has many faces; the Darpana Performance Group, the Janavak Folk and Tribal Dance Company, Darpana for Development, Darpana Communications, the Darpana Conservatoire etc. In recent years, Mallika has managed to apply her artistic talents to her desire for social change in a series of unique projects. Working with most experienced Darpana performers and dozens of her rural and traditional trained artists, she has instituted programmes of using the performing arts to examine gender awareness, issues of violence and environmental issues in schools along with AIDS awareness in slum areas and witch killing in rural areas. These interactive projects bring together artists, sociologists, scientists and local people to make challenging programs often leading to community performance.
Sarabhai is a social activist too. Personally she is a strong character with her own ideas and she feels that dance is a living language that one can interpret the way one thinks. Whatever field she is involved in, be it an activist, writer
, instigator of community
projects, anchorperson of magazines or television channels
with her feet, she excels in it.
Mallika first started writing when she performed Shakti: The Power of Women. Since then, she has scripted her individual shows, television serials
for Indian Space Research Organisation
s educational television in Madhya Pradesh
, film scripts and more recently new contemporary lyrics for Bharatnatyam. She has been a columnist for Times of India
, Vanitha, The Week, Divya Bhaskar, Hans and DNA. On 19th March 2009, she announced her application against the Bharatiya Janata Party
's prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani
for the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha
seat, as an independent candidate in the 2009 general election. She had won from the Congress
to contest election but eventually lost to Lal Krishna Advani by a huge margin.
Personal Life of Mallika Sarabhai
Mallika Sarabhai got married to Bipin Shah. They separated after seven years and later divorced. They have two children, a son, Revanta and a daughter Anahita. Bipin and Mallika co-founded Mapin Publishing in 1984 and continue to run it together.