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Awaken The Performer Within: Secrets From Natyashastra

Pallavi Nagesha

A wide spectrum of artists and many discerning lovers of the arts heard Meru’s call to Awaken the Performer Within” and converged in Lexington, Massachusetts, to bathe in the beauty and lessons culled from the NāṭyaŚāstra – a deep body of knowledge from ancient India which is a treasure trove for the practice of performing arts. Summit Meru 2016 Workshop on the Secrets of NāṭyaŚāstra delighted and informed over 75 New Englanders. Mapping the burning questions that people had about the what, why, and how of NāṭyaŚāstra to relatable stories and fun exercises, the team of energetic instructors steered the audience through a meaningful, essential, and Eternal quest.

This 5-session intensive workshop over the past two weeks was led by Shekhar Shastri of Meru Education Foundation, along with well-known performing artistes, Meena Subramanyam, Shuchita Rao, Aditya Rohit, and Pallavi Nagesha.

The workshop set out to establish a collective Prashna Panchaka for the audience, which would lead them to discover the object, or the essence of their own churning. Much like the churning of the celestial ocean, explained Shastri, each one of us must embark upon this arduous journey in order to peal out the layers and reflect the gem within. That, he said, will shine the path towards our own nectar of immortality, whatever that translates to in each of our lives.

Amidst an engaging dialog between the presenters and the audience, Shekhar deftly brought to light the need for Rasa, the role of Bhava and Abhinaya, and the importance of the Sahrdaya. Interspersed with fun exercises, the workshop was filled to the brim with information and application. For, as Shastri explained, NāṭyaŚāstra is after all a Prayoga Shastra” or a practice science.

The final resolution of the Prashna Panchaka and the churning in the audience let one wanting more. Here is what some of the participants and presenters had to say about the workshop:

Life changing! Superb learning experience”, said Shubhra Bhattacharya Chandra of Lexington, MA.

The sophistication and depth was astounding”, said Nirmala Garimella of Lexington, MA.

Extremely clear and lucid! I loved the methodology of workshop rather than pure lecture, which brought out the essence of this complex discipline. This course opened up the aperture of my understanding in a new way by demonstrating that after all in our personal lives we are performing all the time”, said Suguna Maheswaran of Newton, MA. 

Armando Dicciano said,  I am a musician, and it helped me overcome some of the anxiety associated with performing and most importantly in rediscovering the wonder that I had as a child.”

Radha Raman Gargeya of Sudbury said, Amazed to discover such a text, with staggering specificity and depth; then for Shekhar to take the essence of NS and present it in such a beautiful and engaging manner was fantastic. We play many roles in our lives, now I have learned a few techniques to take each one carefully with full attention.

Shuchita Rao said, The Abhinaya exercises had everyone fully engaged in acting, singing, and a lot more.”

Meena Subramanyam, said, What a wonderful journey, extremely enjoyable for all participants while honing into the core of this intricate and pragmatic science. It has been a pleasure to work with Shekhar and the Meru team in improving the appreciation for the arts.”

Nirmala Garimella added, As Shekhar often reiterates that the Natyashastra is in fact a search for the eternal, as relevant then and now. If we were to step out of our own selves and take on the role of another, we become the observer who will in the course of time awaken to a new realization of the self.”

July certainly seemed to glide past like the clouds of Kalidasa’s Meghadhutam, which was a recurring story illustrating the many aspects of Rasa. As the weeks progressed, the workshop bore testimony to the awakening of performers, when many of the participants demonstrated their ability to emote the many Rasas. Some for the very first time in their lives! We hope that Meru Education Foundation brings us many more innovative and enchanting educational sessions.

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