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Arunima Wali: A Financial Consultant By Day, A Singer For A Lifetime

Singer-Songwriter, Arunima Wali, talks about her journey and making her own personal stories relatable for you.

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Arunima Wali

Artistic creativity can, at times, be a fragile thing. Powerful, but fragile. It needs to be protected and consistently tended to, nurtured and made to grow. However, often, when faced with other pressing demands that come with life, we tend to let go of something that we may be passionate about. Arunima Wali, fortunately, does not count herself among those people. A singer-songwriter, she has, in fact, made certain that she held onto her passion for music from her childhood days, spent in the dry summers of Faridabad, up until now, where she juggles being a financial consultant while following her dream of composing music and singing. It is a delicate balance that she has struck, one that has been carefully curated and earned with sheer determination and hard work.

Wali was enrolled in music classes at the age of 7, with her parents wanting her to further develop her voice. Trained in Hindustani Vocals, she had not anticipated that she would grow to fall in love with music and actually want to pursue it in a tangible manner. In fact, till date, she still finds it difficult to pursue it as a full fledged career. For her, finishing her education was a priority. However, that did not mean that she let her love for music stay latent. No. She went on to actively participate, through her school and college days, in music societies and bands. She is, even, a member of her office band now. Music, for Wali, has always been a constant companion, one that she has seen grow with every step she has taken. 

Wali, herself, admits that it is interesting that something so incidental could happen to be such a large part of her life now. However, underneath the surprise, there are years of work and effort. 

“I never thought that I would be sitting and giving an interview about the importance of music in my life.”

Arunima Wali

While she has covered numerous other songs and artists, Wali conceived her debut single, ‘Can’t Breathe’, in the middle of 2020, when the world around us was shuttered inside. The track came from her own personal experiences, as well as her friends’. Initially, the track, according to Wali, was completely raw, a string of words she had stitched together. When she finally decided that this was going to be her debut single, she spent months polishing it and bringing it together.

Credits: YouTube (Arunima Wali)

‘Can’t Breathe’ deals with the closure we seek when piecing ourselves together from a past relationship. Wali asserts that her original music are all derivatives of her own experiences, personal stories that are told in a manner that make them universally relatable.

It hasn’t always been an easy path to tread for Wali. Nurturing her love for music for years and attempting to make something tangible out of her talent and passion has come with its own set of challenges. Not shying away from talking about the anxiety and depression she faced earlier. Wali still believes in her own ability to work through things. In fact, she draws from her past setbacks and challenges in order to better herself.

“I think the only motivation I have is my belief. When you put in a lot of hard work into something with faith, it will turn out in your favor.”

Arunima Wali

It is this same attitude that she preaches to others pursuing their dreams. Mere talent or skill is not enough to build something worthwhile. That talent, that passion needs to be protected and made to grow with consistent work and effort. And that same effort should, then, be bolstered by belief in one’s self.

It is quite a distance that Wali has walked, a path that she chose herself and stuck with, growing and learning from those around her. Perhaps, it’s just solid determination and drive to do more with everything that she has. Whatever the case may be, it is more than enough to take from.

Credit: YouTube (Arunima Wali)
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Interviews

Shefali Das Puts That Shef’s Kiss In Her Music

In a conversation with Shefali Das, a singer-songwriter based in New Jersey, who goes by the stage name, Shef’s Kiss.

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Shef's Kiss, Shefali Das, Music, Songwriter, Singer

If there is one thing that Shefali Das will give you, it’s a sheer story combined with the perfect pitch. It was in 2019, when Shefali put out her first EP, ‘Dear Somebody,’. It consisted of five of her self-written songs, each with a unique story, a unique perception. Yes, she’s both a singer and a songwriter! The musical project of hers received a positive response, and it wasn’t surprising, since Shefali had always put that ‘Shef’s Kiss’ in all her musical endeavours. 

Born and brought up in New Jersey, USA, Shefali was moved by her own desires and passion for music. The least to say, her journey has been enthralling, and quite a chirpy musical one. However, this doesn’t mean she didn’t have her shares of ups and lows. Until 2020, she went by her stage name, Das, under which Shefali also has the song, ‘Tired’ which has crossed 600K streams on Spotify.

Music is personal to her rather than just a commodity for the public. Since her previous profile didn’t resonate with the singer-songwriter on an equal level, she rebranded to a profile more tuned with her. And so emerged a new aura, a new stage name, ‘Shef’s Kiss,’ (there could be no better pun-intended stage name for her!) and we’re quite frankly looking forward to the music that is yet to come in this new refreshing chapter of hers! 

Here’s a deeper dive into Shefali’s approach to music, her lyricism, and a little heart-to-heart on the enigma of art.

Music Is So Much More Than Just Melodies For Shefali Das: Early Life

The beginning of Shefali’s musical journey is unlike others. No, she wasn’t born with the natural inclination towards music, and neither did she take it up on her own. Rather, it was her parents who encouraged her to learn the piano. Just one of many neighbourhood things where the children were supposed to pick one or two creative hobbies and practices. Therefore, by the age of four, Shefali started practising the keys. It wasn’t until that one day at the Church recital, which literally made Shefali the singer she is today.

At the recital, there was a 10-year-old girl who played the piano and sang. The way she was singing, as described by Shefali, “full body facing the audience, broad-chested, feet planted” was something she had never witnessed before. She was dazzled by it. Shefali’s dad straightaway asked the piano teacher to give her daughter vocal lessons, but the daughter wasn’t quite looking forward to it. One thing that Shefali had great difficulty with in her childhood was interacting with people she didn’t know. She wanted to stay hidden from other people’s eyes. Owing to this, her parents tried to get her into several creative and sporty pursuits, and music happened to be one of them. 

The Beginning!

Despite being against vocal lessons, Shefali had to ultimately give in to it, and what came out of it was definitely worth it. There’s something so beautiful in the way Shefali describes the first moments of her very first singing performance. Recollecting those emotions, she said, “I pushed back my shoulders, I took in more breath, I kind of physically took up more space, and then the way that sound reverberated in my chest, the way that it felt in my hips, in my lips, for the first time I felt that it was okay to take up space. It felt good, it felt kind of different. And to this day, the best thing about it is the way that it feels. It taught me that I was allowed to take up space, I was allowed to be heard, in fact maybe, if I was crazy enough to think that maybe people wanted to hear me too,” and thus began Shefali’s new journey.

The school orchestra band provided her with a sense of community and creativity, where she found a sense of comfort and space. Moreover, her dad always had songs blasted on the speakers, which kept her surrounded with disco-pop, classic rock, Motown, and her favorite, Bruce Springsteen. Thus, when asked what fosters her zeal towards music, she simply answered that growing up, there has always been in her the intrinsic desire to be surrounded by creation, to be surrounded by music. She never has and had to question it.

Currently, the singer-songwriter is pursuing her Ph.D. from Yale. It’s a dual programme in Sociology and African-American studies. She also remarked that a lot of new music is in the making which should be out soon!

Music, Social Media And The Transition: The Stepping Stones To Shef’s Kiss Music

As a singer-songwriter, Shefali consumes a lot of media: movies, books, songs, etc. She is not only inspired by musicians like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, or the 70s-80s disco pop, which happens to be her favourite genre, but also finds inspiration in architect designers and interior designers. All forms of creativity and art are a source for her to embrace, learn, and grow through it. 

While promoting her first EP, ‘Dear Somebody,’ Shefali turned to social media. Even though she found a community of amazing artists, a great audience and a phenomenal response to her music, the bad side of it overpowered her. She posted song covers consistently to stay in trend, or trying to fit in to the idea of what the people wanted, or the imposter syndrome, all of it took a toll on her. The claws of the internet tainted the relationship she had with music. The social media bug fractured the connection she valued the most. So, she ultimately took a break from music all together. It was also the time of the pandemic. She then concentrated on other creative endeavours like baking, movies and reading books. 

After the break, Shefali knew she had to rebrand herself, and this is when she changed her stage name from Das to Shef’s Kiss. She created a new Spotify profile, and decided to create music for herself, and express her true form, like she had always wanted. It was a turn to a more sustainable way of moving forward. 

Tapping The Lyricism: Shef’s Kiss As A Songwriter

When it comes to lyricism, Shefali recalls her childhood days when she had spent a lot of time in her own head. She’d dump all her feelings and thoughts on a sheet of paper, and then, through this, it became a therapeutic outlet for her. Her lyrics bear a lot of weight, symbolisms, and metaphors. As a songwriter, her lyrics stem not only from personal experiences but also from her surroundings, other people’s stories, the social and political as well.

For instance, her song, ‘Tired,’ narrates a story of a suffocating relationship, one in which someone is not able to live with and without the same person. The song also reverberates the feelings of frustration, isolation, and mental exhaustion of the pandemic. Meanwhile, her song, ‘Forty-five Pt. II’, is a very political song. It’s on American politics and Trump. There are implicit metaphors and powerful feelings of anger, action, and questioning. Lyrics play a crucial part in the essence of the songs and its purpose, and apparently, this songwriter’s pen brings out her personal expressions very smoothly in words. 

Message For The Aspiring Artists

Shefali Das believes that talent is acquired rather than being inherent, however, exceptions are always there. She herself is the living proof of it, having acquired her vocal talents and songwriting. She also adds that creative spirit and desire are innate, but the talent isn’t. A person must have the willingness to create. She also says that we must always interrogate ourselves and question why we’re doing it. Currently, with the 70s-80s vibe back in the mainstream industry, she almost feels vindicated to follow it. But in times like these, she always interrogates why she’s in music in the first place. One must find the balance amid desires and trends, and should always do what makes one feel fulfilled. 

One of the life lessons she has learned, which she has also applied to her music, is when she dropped the idea of pursuing med. Her pre-med high-school days were just her chasing a kind of stability, a common immigrant drive. She was chasing someone else’s expectations. When she came to college, she realised that pursuing medicine really wasn’t sustainable for her. She confessed to her parents about the decisions to switch her major, and it felt like a dam broke. Parents are oftentimes skeptical of unconventional career paths, mainly because of their concerns more than anything. But the best way is to have a clear conversation with them and give them time to understand. 

“A person must have the willingness to create. She also says that we must always interrogate ourselves and question why we’re doing it.”

– Shefali Das

Expectations!

Shefali Das wants her mind, body, and soul to be involved a hundred percent in whatever she does. When she gave up her previous profile, ‘Das’, which still has 15K monthly listeners, it was like the plane was finally taking off. But Shefali decided to jump off right at that moment, because that direction wasn’t for her. With her identity as Shef’s Kiss now, she has released the song ‘Expectations’, produced by ShiShi. The song echoes the mixed feelings of anger and desperation after a breakup. 

Therefore, for the aspiring artists, the songwriter has one thing to say: just go for it! If it means something to you, then that’s the end of all. Even though money is a big factor, especially in this capitalist world, your own creation and art is what keeps you going.

Credits – YouTube shef’s kiss
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Creators

The Funny Man Next Door : Kenny Sebastian

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Kenny Sebastian

He is that guy, the Gen-Z Funnyman, who spreads seismic waves of rollicking laughter through his audience. The obvious aftershocks are the thunderous roars of applause and the insatiable craving for more of his rib-tickling jokes. As an audience, we can never have enough of him. On stage, his witticism and sense of humour catch everyone’s attention, making him one of the most loved and endearing Stand-up comedians in India.

In an exchange with The Talented Indian, Kenny reveals “Stand-up happened accidentally”. Admitting he had an inclination towards filmmaking in his early school days, it was an impromptu participation in the Stand-Up Comedy Competition held at the IIT Mood Indigo Fest that set him on the sail for his career. He won the competition. From then on, there has been no looking back. He confides that his biggest strength is his ability to see the normal world ‘differently’. This perspective adds a breath of fresh air to his content and stylistics of his performance. The ‘everyday’ stories retold in a funny and light-hearted manner, interspersed with interludes of brief musical pieces, is what makes him a favourite with his audience.

Kenny Sebastian

Kenny Sebastian

He recognizes that the comedy is essentially a medium, designated for entertainment, and anything else that emerges during the act, for him, is “an amazing and a fortunate by product”. On the future of the Indian Stand-up Comedy, he forecasts that it harbours a huge potential for growth, precisely because its format is “honest”, “unregulated”, and moreover it “speaks to the audience at a deep level”.

Kenny Sebastian

Kenny Sebastian

When asked to pass on an encouraging message for all those upcoming artists, who wish to follow his footsteps, he asserts “Keep going at it. It isn’t enough JUST being a Stand-up comedian/ artist. In the days and age of the internet, you are your own manager/PR/producer/writer/performer. Acquire as many skills as possible. Don’t sit on a high chair on one skill.”

Getting A Hang Of Kenny In Tidbits

Kenny Sebastian

Kenny Sebastian with Jaison Padacheril

Ques: One friend, who has played the most crucial role, in your life?
Kenny: My childhood’s best friend Jaison Padacheril. He knew I had the talent, long before I knew it myself.

Ques: Your proudest moment?
Kenny: When my parents came up to the stage during my Amazon Prime Video special ‘Don’t be that guy’.

Ques: Your favorite Stand-up comedians?
Kenny: Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Carrey.

Ques: The most courageous thing that you’ve ever done that required you to take a huge leap of faith in life?
Kenny: Recently, the biggest and the most ambitious project that I have ever done, is to write, act and produce a 7 episode web series for the Amazon Prime Video. I had never done anything like that before and I had to get it done, despite a lots of challenges and hurdles.

Ques: Your best-loved book?
Kenny: The Agile Mind: How Your Brain Makes Creativity Happen by Estanislao Bachrach.

Ques: Your style guru?
Kenny: It keeps changing.

Ques: The quote that you live by?
Kenny: No one has any idea what they are doing.

Ques: The superhero that you would love to be?
Kenny: Batman.

Ques: The sport that you love to play?
Kenny: Basketball.

The Talented Indian Community extends best wishes to him and his team for the brightest future.

Keep rocking!!! Keep tickling our funny bones!!!

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Interviews

Read About Nayab Midha’s Khubsoorat Story Of Chasing Her Dreams

“If you want to bring your dream come true, then tell your mad heart to be brave” says Nayab Midha, in an open talk with the slam poet.

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Nayab Midha

Born in the beautiful town of Sri Ganga Nagar in Rajasthan at the boundary of India and Pakistan to a middle-class family, Nayab Midha is a compassionate and dedicated youngster who now embraces slam poetry, performing before a huge audience in different locations across India. From missing a train to finding her passion, Nayab Midha has a unique story to tell. The renowned slam poet who embraced words to influence people across the globe- Nayab Midha opens up to The Talented Indian.

The past that dreamt of this present.

Nayab’s grandparents had settled at the Sri Ganga Nagar during the partition of India. She was born while her parents were struggling to set up their careers and stabilize themselves. Her parents are postgraduates. She was moulded to believe in education and its abominable scope of progress as a human being. Thus she started reading extensively at 10 years of age. She feels that is where she belongs and wants to move forward with it.

Nayab loved Mathematics but her father wanted her to be a doctor. Then she landed on being a Software engineer by profession. Back in her college life, she had thought becoming a poet can only be done by being an author. She is used to writing poems from the early days. But only when she went to Delhi for graduation, that she participated in slam poetry competitions in the College. But when she came across people performing slam poetry on stages in malls, she found this new door to execute her ever dreamt desire.

Later, she chose to leave her 2 years of Infoscion life to pursue what her passion demanded- to be an influencing poet. College life gave her opportunities to contest in various competitions to perform her poem. She took the 2 years at Infosys to stabilize her independent life and used weekends to embrace slam poetry at stages in various places like Delhi.

Nayab started taking reading and writing seriously when she was reading the fresh arrival of  Revolution 2020 by Chetan Bhagat while she missed a train and was waiting at the railway station. Nayab says she is so grateful that she missed her train which literally made her take another in her career. She continued exploring books written by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens. But she is more fascinated by Indian authors, especially Hindi writers like Amrita Pritam.

Credits: YouTube (Tape A Tale)

Passion overrides pressures

Nayab believes that whenever she shifted from a particular position it took much courage for her to do so. The first and most risky thing was to leave her job at Infosys. But she strongly believes in and loves storytelling and wants to pursue it as much as she can. To the question regarding societal pressures and pre-established parameters that hinder such unconventional careers, Nayab says she did not randomly take the bag and left the place. She worked for 2 years at the MNC and ensured that she paid her bills and simultaneously chased her slam poetry interests. She made her parents believe in her. Nayab affirms that it is only to the parents and the loved ones that we need to justify our actions and not anyone else. Because one can’t always convince the cent percent people. Nayab proudly says her parents are now absolutely happy with her decision to take the current path. For her, the constant motivation has always been her mother. Also, the catchy themes of any project can make her curious to work ecstatically on it. She playfully adds that paying her bills and feeding her stomach is yet another motivation.

A poem to cherish

Nayab feels that every part of the journey has been special for her. But something to be so genuinely touching was an incident, she recollected. This happened while she was at Chandigarh and was struggling to establish her name. She worked at Infosys in Chandigarh on weekdays and organized events in the city related to poetry and music during weekends. This helped her grab the train from Chandigarh to Delhi to perform once a weekend every month. Then she would go to her favorite place and eat her favourite food as she was so in love with Delhi food. Then she goes to Chandigarh late at night on the same days. During one of the dull days where she couldn’t write well due to lack of time and had to give a mediocre kind of performance. Later a program was around the corner, she asked for a slot and they reminded her not to be like the last time. Relying on the promise. Nayab was given a slot and thus the poem Khubsoorat was born. The organizers decided to release it and informed her. While she went out to have some Dosa at Sharavana Bhavan, she dreamt of getting 100 K views since her previous ones got less than that. Her phone got switched off in the midst of the travel. By the evening when she switched on the phone, the views were 300k and by 9 pm, it got 1 million views. Later it went to like 15 million.

Credits: YouTube (13) STAGE – YouTube

Social media is for all people

Social media has given an egalitarian platform for people from all walks of life to showcase their talents in any art form. The economic, social, or geographic inequalities are overridden by merit and creativity. Equal opportunities are established and auditions don’t matter now if one has the ability to take up chances and uses it effectively. Every person is talented in a unique manner. But there are often cases where works are plagiarised and copied, which degrades the quality of the art.

Risks, Failures, and Success

She reminds us that if you stay there in the pit of not taking risks and following what you want, you will remain there all your life. So it’s better to jump from the pit and get the best out there. Nayab exhorts to climb up the pit even if you fall off. Have the courage to jump, that’s it! Believe that you can grow and mould yourself. Nayab acknowledges failures but never wanted to pursue success without deserving it. She wants to achieve victories when she is prepared and fully ready to receive them. Learning and accepting others’ work is also significant for her. Nayab admires poets like by Rohit Sharma whose amazing poem Mein Ravan Hoon is trending on YouTube. She is so much enchanted with the poems of Pallavi  Mahajan, Nithi Narwal especially Andhera.

Nayab Midha is an inspiration to many. She sets the flame to the cult of upcoming artists or any dreamer to dream big, start small, and finally get their careers built.

Credits: YouTube (STAGE)
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Interviews

Scripting Characters and Dramedies: Meet Screenwriter Yashna Malhotra

Screenwriter Yashna Malhotra shares with us her journey of success and her experiences in the entertainment and writing industry.

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Yashna Malhotra

Behind every exceptional movie, drama, or your most binge watched series is a person who worked tirelessly to bring it to the screen the way it is. Movies and TV series are not just an accumulation of dialogues and scenes, but many other elements like the mood, the lighting, the background, sound, etc. Screenwriters hold together the scriptwriters and the directors, and contribute significantly to filmmaking. We present to you an interview with Yashna Malhotra, a passionate screenwriter. She’s currently writing a project for her dream company run by filmmakers she respects and admires the most in the industry.

Early Life 

Yashna Malhotra was born and raised in Bombay. In 2014, she moved to Chicago for a Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. She wrote her first screenplay in 2014. During that time, she was committed to screenplay writing, however she had no plans to pursue it full time, until in 2017, the realisation crept that she wanted to commit to screenwriting full time as a profession. During this time, she was in New York working in advertising. She took the courage and moved to UCLA to pursue screenwriting. There in Los Angeles she received a formal training in screenwriting. Yashna Malhotra has an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA, with a focus on both features and series writing. 

The Steps to Achievements and Lessons

Yashna Malhotra took a leap of faith, moving away from a stable career in marketing to pursue screenwriting, a career in filmmaking, full-time. This was surely a difficult and risk induced decision, because in all honest facts, Yashna only had one self written screenplay in her hands when she decided to step off the more secured and planned path, and take a whole different route. Yashna says, “the blank page every day is a huge leap of faith. You have to believe you will be able to do it justice, and it can be very scary.”

Moreover, the filmmaking industry is unstable and volatile. We asked Yashna Malhotra to share how it has been to locate herself in the industry and keep up the perseverance. She replied that this is an ongoing process for her, and that the most important thing for any writer is that they must have something to say and know how to say it which should reflect in the writing. One’s writing samples are their calling-card for their voice and their brand as a writer. One’s voice must be loud enough in one’s writing. This is what she herself has been following.

On days when Yashna feels demotivated, she turns to entertainment pieces. The artistic creativity in movies, tv series, filmmaking, and even books, inspires her and gets her to break that feeling of ‘stuck’. 

Yashna has received recognition and awards from prestigious institutions, some of which are BAFTA and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. These have been huge milestones in her career so far. 

Choosing the Unconventional: Yashna Malhotra’s Message for the Young and Aspiring Artists.  

We live in a society that has established some stringent norms and parameters. Growing in such an environment, sometimes our life decisions get influenced by them. A rift thus gets created between expectations and desires. Yashna also found herself trapped between this. She says that she resisted pursuing filmmaking for the longest time because of how unsteady and turbulent an occupation in this industry could be. It took her a long time to shake that internal barrier within her and convince herself to take the risk of walking away from the traditional career paths. Since then, Yashna hasn’t taken her decision, and the fact that she can pursue the craft of screenwriting, for granted. She’s deeply respectful of the passion she’s pursuing. This fosters her zeal any time of the day! 

Yashna shares her opinions on talent. She says, “I think every human being is talented, but what you do with that talent is what will set you apart and get you to where you need to go.” Nobody could have described this better! Surely, one’s talent needs to be honed, otherwise it will stay as a stagnant, non-harnessed energy in one’s self. There can be no victory without hardwork. She further says that, “Screenwriting requires a tremendous amount of persistence, and just showing up to write every day, one word after another, requires another level of commitment”.

For all the aspiring young screenwriters, Yashna Malhotra asks them to question themselves if the regret of not even giving a chance to walk on the path you desire would haunt them several years later. If it will, then you will have to take that jump, that massive risk. She also suggests that don’t necessarily quit your day job, but try to take out time for writing, since it’s very difficult to focus on writing when you’re worried about making ends meet. So don’t quit your job, but make the time in your existing schedule to work on your material. When the time is right, you can transition into doing this full-time.

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Dance

The Transcendental Magic of Mohiniyattam: Dancer Honey Unnikrishnan

Mohiniyattam Dancer, Honey Unnikrishnan, takes us on her journey with the Indian classical art forms, and gives us stories to dwell on.

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Honey Unnikrishnan

Honey Unnikrishnan is a full time Mohiniyattam dancer. Her journey with Mohiniyattam has been a cherishing gift and treasure for her, for she has given up her entire heart and soul to Mohiniyattam. The love and passion for classical arts brim in her very aura. This talk that we had with her gave us fruitful insights into the essence of Mohiniyattam, and the hurdles that Honey Unnikrishnan gracefully passed to become who she is today. She is still on the journey of exploration and learning, and her words were like an open window to delight and lessons.

Early Life 

Honey Unnikrishnan is a dentist by profession. However, as is universally known, home is where the heart is, so for Honey, the home was Mohiniyattam. So she chose Mohiniyattam as a full-time profession. She was born in Kerala, and raised in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Honey’s mother is also a full time classical dancer and owns a dancing institution. It was under her mother only that she received a dance degree. Her mother has been her biggest inspiration, since she struggled a lot to be where she is today. As for Honey, compared to her mother, she has received everything on a silver plate. 

As a child, Honey was a jack of all! She took dance classes, along with Carnatic music, veena and painting classes. A very obedient, and a topper in studies, Honey Unnikrishnan was excelling in all fields. At the advice of her mother, she later just focused on Indian classical dances. She started learning dance at the age of 4. Initially, she trained on Tagore music, however, by the age of 10, she shifted to Carnatic Music, and since then has been majorly choreographing and performing on Carnatic music.

Under her mother’s tutelage, Honey Unnikrishnan started learning Mohiniyattam at the age of eight. She used to practice and perform Bharatanatyam often, but in 8th grade, she performed Mohiniyattam for the first time. It was with Mohiniyattam that she felt an instant connection with, and chose to train further in this specific art form. Every day after school, Honey spent hours with her mother practising the dance form. 

Later, Honey’s eyes fell on Dr. Neena Prasad. She saw her Mohiniyattam performance on Doordarshan (DD Malayalam) and was completely enamoured by her. She watched her interviews as well. Honey had the deepest desire to learn Mohiniyattam from her. Luckily, in 10th grade, Honey met Dr. Neena Prasad for the first time in Nagpur. There she learnt that she takes classes in Chennai but because of Honey’s higher studies, she couldn’t visit Chennai. However, after completing her graduation, Honey got married, shifted to Chennai, and a week later joined Neena Prasad’s classes.

Credits: Instagram (Dr. Honey Unnikrishnan)

Mohiniyattam Through the Eyes of Honey Unni Krishnan 

Honey Unnikrishnan describes Mohiniyattam as a magical dance form, a moment of hallucination and trance one experiences while performing. In this fast-paced world, Mohiniyattam provides that peace and calmness to her. She talks further that there is no impossible feat in this dance form, because everything comes down to pure dedication and passion. One can achieve Mohiniyattam’s pure nritta through diligence. 

On a talk with why Mohiniyattam is not as mainstream as other classical dances, like Bharatanatyam and Kathakali, Honey explains Mohiniyattam is perceived as a slow dance by the audience whereas Bharatanatyam and Kathakali is a dance of big leaps and beautiful aesthetics, which delights audience differently. The abhinaya of Kathakali and its techniques are also used by the theatre artists in east and west. Moreover, Bharatanatayam and Kathakali artists have actively promoted these dance forms, whereas Mohiniyattam didn’t get it on that scale. The repertoire of Mohiniyattam has developed little, and it’s a controlled dance form. 

The Evolution of Mohiniyattam

Honey Unnikrishnan states that Mohiniyattam flourished under Kerala Kalamandalam, but later, it again went down. According to her, an art form must be explored at all times. If it isn’t, it gets stagnant. The western contribution is okay as long as the art form doesn’t completely change. The contemporary Mohiniyattam isn’t in its purest form as compared to several years back.

Honey incorporates contemporary narratives into her Mohiniyattam choreographies. Self production takes a lot of time. As Honey reveals, sometimes there are existing Carnatic music to source from but she often has to reach out to songwriters and producers to make a song according to the narrative she’ll be presenting through the dance. 

Message for the Aspiring Artists

Honey Unnikrishnan asks all the aspiring artists to go for it, because there’s never too much time left, especially the young aspiring dancers. She also asks them to keep a good tab of their studies to always have a backup option. Secondly, she asks them to take the challenges, and that these challenges come and go. Honey herself shared one of her challenging experiences. When she started learning with Dr. Neena Prasad, she got pregnant, which was unplanned, but nevertheless she wanted the child. In this unprecedented turn of events, Honey still kept practising till the fifth month of her pregnancy. Honey rejoined after her baby turned 2 and a half months old. During that time, it was difficult to balance the training and family. Honey used to stay up late at night and practice when everyone slept. During the mornings, while cooking food in the kitchen, or some other work, she used to sneak whatever two-three minutes she could, and practice. Honey also mentions that even if you are god gifted, and your grace comes naturally, only hard work and dedication can give you the desired result. Watching classical dance performances will help you explore yourself. Lastly, she also asks everyone to never ask artists to perform for you for free. Artists must be given their due respect and worth.

Credits: Instagram (Dr. Honey Unnikrishnan)
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