This is the philosophy that my family and I have always lived by. Before I tell you my story I am going to rewind to from where my parents met.My parents met in Delhi in the early 1980s. My mother, a rebellious dancer, was pursuing her passion for dance by studying under BirjuMaharaj. My father, an Australian musician but Indian at heart, was on a Buddhist pilgrimage and had come to Delhi to study Hindustani music from the Dagar Brothers. Through a series of coincidences my parents' paths collided and they fell madly in love. My parents have made me believe in true love because of the way they love each other. They married against all odds - my mother who hailed from an upper middle class business Gujarati family married a poor Buddhist musician. When I was born, we lived in a small one-room Barsati in Delhi. We didn't have much money but we had lots of love, dance and music and somehow that seemed sufficient. I am the artist I am today because I dance not for money, I dance not for fame - I dance for passion, I dance for love and I dance for God. Growing up we were not very well off but we loved what we did hence being poor never mattered. I loved dancing since the age of 2 and according to my parents I would provide regular entertainment on the table tops of Bengali Market in Delhi. When I was about 5 years old, my parents left Delhi to live in Vrindavan, Mathura where they researched the Rig Veda for 3 years as they were doing a new show. My mother being a Krishna Bhakt wanted to do Krishna seva through her dance. This is where my brother was born and we spent our early years. Growing up in a temple Vrindavan is the most unique experience a child can ever have. We then shifted down South to a distant corner of Bangalore before settling down in Kerala. Because I lived in such far-flung places, schooling became an issue and hence till the age of 9, I never entered a classroom. At the age of 9, I was put in a boarding school where I studied for 2½ years. Post that I came to Kerala, spent a year in a normal school, and absolutely hated it. I was 13 by then and my interest in dance was beginning to develop. Till then I was a very athletic kid that you would never see in the house. By 13, I really wanted to dance. I gave my first show in a very small open-air theatre called 'Nishagandhi' where I performed for literally 2 minutes. I still remember my first show very vividly. I was terribly anxious and 15 minutesto the performance I could hardly breathe and refused to come out of the bathroom! I remember my friends in the crowd cheering loudly for me - it was my first real taste of being on stage and what it felt like performing in front of a cheering audience. Even though I was hardly in the show, it marked the beginning of my journey into the world of dance. Since I was the youngest dancer in the company and all the other dancers had 10 to 12 years of training, I had to prove myself in my mother's company for that position was not given easily to me. My parents firmly believed one had to earn their right to be on stageand being their daughter, I was no exception. Living in the most remote parts of the country, having no access to cable TV, being home schooled- was my life till I was 18. This meant waking up at 5 am, taking the bus to study Kallaripayattu, dancing from 8 amto 4 pm, eating, and then studying till 8:30 or 9:00pm – such was my routine. I had a few friends. I lived for dance. Looking back, those foundation years really shaped me into the person I am today. Dance has taught me discipline, sacrifice and working towards a goal. As you get older, your goals may become bigger but it is important to stay focussed on one goal. Dancing every single day is not easy. There are days where you just don't feel like dancing but you still go, you still put in the hours and that makes all the difference. People always see the glamorous side of the dancer - the costumes, the flowers, the show, the applause - but they don't see the sacrifice, the hours, the passion and dedication that goes behind making an Artist and this is holds true for every field. My family has always been passionate about films. We were avid film watchers. In those days, we use to watch movies on VHS tapes and gradually CD's and then DVD's came along. To this day, we have two cupboards full of old VHS tapes of movies that my brother and I grew up watching over and over again as it was our only source of entertainment. When I was about 20, I was offered a film by chance called 'Kisna' and at that time, I had never even thought about going into the film industry. After Kisna, I did a few other films but my passion for the stage and the love of performing kept me from exploring my full potential in films and that has been a very conscious choice.
My brother, Tao Issaro, is 7 years younger than me and like me he debuted on stage at the age of 13. I believe my brother is one of the most talented young percussionists I the country today. My parents took a huge risk with the both of us, for it takes great courage to take the road less travelled. They let their kids pursue their dreams - their son who decided to do music and daughter who decided to dance. My parents came in for a lot of criticism from the family when they decided to pull us both out of school because our relatives feared we had no 'back-up plan'. However, my father always believed that if you have a back-up plan, you will use it. If you have none, you will go all out and make it happen. My parents had incredible faith in both of us, for what parent would allow their kids to quit school at the age of 13. The responsibility and faith that they instilled in us since childhood helped us be more independent. We took responsibility for our lives at a very young age - hence all the mistakes we made were ours, all the journeys that we took helped us grow as individuals. My parents did not try to be over-protective about us because they firmly believed and lived by the notion that life is all the experiences accumulated - both good and bad - and they wanted us (my brother and I) to experience it all and live life on our terms.
Dance - A lifestyle
My parents began their collaboration post marriage and have been at the forefront of Indian contemporary dance since the early 1980's. My mother actually pioneered the Indian contemporary dance movement and was the first to introduce Aerial in Indian Dance. Hence, I was born at a time when they were in the middle of their experimentations. I believe their work is far ahead of their time. The Classical Indian forms I have studied, like Kathak (which is a dance form developed during the Mughal period) and Chhau (a dance form developed during the pre-colonial era) are over 100 years old. Beautiful as they are in their classical state, I do not identify with those formats, which is why I feel that contemporary Indian dance, even though in its nascent state, is a relevant means of dance expression. Preservation of our heritage by making it more identifiable to our day and age is what will take us forward. Completely dismissing classical forms and aping the West is not something I would want to do, for my body is an Indian one and I want to do contemporary Indian work which appeals to the people of my generation using our rich, ancient Indian heritage and tradition.