Irony, loneliness, grief and dread come together in a bathtub in Rathimalar Govindarajoo’s two-minute dance film. A work of stark symbolism, the film was made in May two years ago as all humanity went into a terror-stricken lockdown. Out there was a pathogen that could suck all breath out of the body with little warning.
The mudras in the film say classic Bharatanatyam but everything else says otherwise – the neon-lit claustrophobic setting, the short shift as costume and the dancer submerging in and emerging from inches of water with a gasp.
The Bathtub had led the first Indian online dance film series of the pandemic, Boxed, released in May 2020. An initiative of the arts platform and ezine Narthaki, the series sought to provide an alternative platform to dancers as the entire performative ecosystem collapsed. This was a time when dancers struggled to create work “born from a denial of space, lights, people, all the things artists literally live off”, as dancer Leela Samson said.
Over seven weekends, Boxed webcast 40 dance films set in the most mundane corners of homes, in everyday lockdown clothes: there was Bharatanatyam dancer Kumar Sarveshan’s ingenious work atop a kitchen counter, Palani Murugan’s fluid silambam (short stick) choreography to the…