After graduating from Management Studies from the University of Dhaka, Sharmila Banerjee won a scholarship on Dance at Shantiniketon back in 1978. Banerjee was very passionate about dance and her first duet was at the age of four. Her ability to sing was an added quality, not one she chose to do professionally. Until she chose dancing as her sole career during her higher education at Shantiniketon, she continued practicing with both simultaneously.
Sharmila was brought up in a family in Chittagong which had culture at its heart. She and her siblings used to sing in chorus during Puja celebrations held at her house. Interestingly, she came to Dhaka with a view of learning dance at BAFA rather than fully concentrating in her academic life at university. Dance gave her a handful of acclamations - she came up first in inter-department dance competition.
To Sharmila Banerjee, dance is life. It's like a prayer which needs 3Ds- devotion, dedication and discipline. She feels that dance is derived from Mother Nature and all its rhythm is in sync with the natural elements in the world. May be that is why she introduced the program 'Celebrating Life with Rhythm'. She adapted Ibsen's 'The Lady from the Sea' in dance form while working with groups of international theatre activists on Ibsen. Until today, she has participated in numerous solo, duet and group dance performances. She has been working with Odissi, Chayanaut and many other prominent cultural organizations of the country.
I grew up in a cultural atmosphere in my family in Chittagong. I used to participate in cultural celebration at my house with my other siblings. Back then, Chittagong Town Hall was a center of cultural affairs and we used to visit there in groups. I came to Dhaka later on and got admitted into University of Dhaka. Simultaneously, I continued my dance classes in BAFA. It was back in 1971 that I thought to take dance seriously after being highly inspired by the creative style of Amala Sangkar. My television works started when Layla Hasan took me to television.
For my present ground, I would say Rabindranath Tagore has influenced me greatly. His aesthetics and his works influenced me to grow up like this. The dance form 'Rabindrik Dance', was introduced by this great man, which I have been practicing for years now. All that this dance form needs is the rhythm from someone's heart and the moves need to be visualized in the form of dance. Kazi Nazrul Islam also influenced me in my early days of life. I learned that dance, like other art forms, needs craftsmanship. I evaluate the artistic form of dance which follows the classical rules of expressing emotions and feeling, not its perverted form.
From my childhood, I have seen my mother, Putul Rani Das, work all the time. Even during a friendly conversation, she used to do needle work. I am inspired by my mother and I like my work very much. Sanjida Khatun also inspired me a lot. The book Na Hanyate by Maitreyi Devi inspired me in my way of life as well.
Dancing in Bangladesh
The present scenario of dance in Bangladesh is very good with people more aware of it. It's good to see that institutions are patronizing classical dance forms in recent times. The media is also playing a positive role here. I think we have an audience for classical dance forms in Bangladesh. All we need is to work to develop it from our respective places. In Bangladesh, dance is not inspired significantly in the family environment. People do not grow interest from early life and often married people discontinue their passion in dance. I would say dance needs dedication and seriousness. In spite of everything that might dishearten, I am hopeful about the future prospect of dance, especially the classical form, in Bangladesh. I am mentoring in a school named Nritya Nandan. I think I can grow interest among the school going children about dance. I am also planning to launch a dance program among 8-10 years school-going children.
It is tough to describe my achievements in simple words. I think dance is not merely entertainment. It has its own form, aesthetics and style. I have tried to establish this truth with all my works. I never compromised for dance with any foul play and this realization satisfies me. I have almost spent my life with dance and now it is the other name of my life. I fractured my backbone but never gave up. Even today, I practice dance every day, even on busy days.
Dancers: Madhavi Mudgal, Leela Samson, Birju Maharaj, Akram Khan
Movies: Saptapadi, Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen, Paa
Actors/Actress: Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Jaya Bacchan, Amitabh Bachan, Robert Redford
Singers: Shreekanto Acharya, Bulbul Islam, Shasha Ghosal, Rezwana Chowdhury, Laisa Ahmed Lisa, Chirkutt Band, Dohar Band (Kolkata)
Authors: Rabindranath Tagore, Samaresh Basu, Ashutosh Mukherjee