Dance is a creative expression of storytelling, which is profound beyond the limitations of verbal understanding. Mahesh Dattani’s Dance Like A Man is one such English drama that explores parent-child relationship, the emotions underneath and the concept of masculinity. Directed by Lillette Dubey, the story is about two Bharatnatyam dancers, Jairaj and Ratna and their relationship with their daughter, Lata who is on the verge to become a famous dancer. The play highlights the prevailing tensions underneath the relations of a successful family.

In an interview with a leading daily, Lillette Dubey talks elaborately about the play that highlights various layers of relationship and the tensions lying beneath the surface. On being asked about the play’s theme revolving around parents enforcing their dreams and hopes on their children, Lillette said, “That’s just one of the themes. There is also the theme of two artists living together: strong-willed people with fragile egos and underlying competition. When you’ve lived together for a long time, there is bound to be a conflict of some kind, things that have been buried…That’s the beauty of Dance Like a Man, it doesn’t remain in the dance world. You don’t have to be a dancer to relate to a mother-daughter or father-son relationship. You can love your daughter and want her to be successful, yet you want to get the credit for that; show that you are not over the hill.”

Talking about the incorporation of Bharatnatyam in the play, she said, “The play is not about dance; it’s about the dancers and their internal lives. The dance bit comes in the way the characters hold themselves, their postures, and the way they express with their hands.”

Commenting about the universal appeal of the theme of the play that aided its exhibition across countries, Lillette said, “The only review I have framed on my wall, is that of The New York Times, because of the way he has understood and analysed the layers of the play. And this is a white man in his sixties, with no exposure to Bharatanatyam, India, or our socio-cultural ethos. When I took this play to the US, people suggested we lose the accent, don’t say words like adavu, give them a glossary… But I don’t agree. When we see a play set in Harlem in New York, we enter that world, even though it’s different. The beauty of art and literature is that it illuminates our shared humanity. A play should be in its context, but also rise above to become something universal.”

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