Published:  12:34 AM, 31 July 2020

Homage to Amala Shankar

Amala Shankar the doyen of modern dancing in both India and Bangladesh passed away in the early hours of July 24, 2020 at the ripe old age of 101 years. She was the relict of legendary dancer of the yesteryear Uday Shankar. Throughout his prolonged innings of more than a century Amala Shankar had colorful innings with her legendary husband having toured length and breadth of undivided India and also after Independence of India to other parts of the globe. It was just a month back on June 27, 2020 her 101st birth anniversary was celebrated. Within a month this talented and erudite lady in the world of dancing passed away all his kith and kin along with all the innumerable followers and fans for her abode of peace and tranquility.

Amala Shankar was born in the year 1919 on June 27 at Jessore in undivided Bengal (which now falls in Bangladesh). Her father Akshoy Kumar Nandy wanted her daughter to get into any sort of fine arts. Thus on the basis of father Akshoy Kumar's motivation young Amala visited Paris in the year 1931 at the age of 12 years to attend International Colonial Exhibition at the capital city of France. After reaching Paris young Amala had the privilege to be in touch with legendary dancer Uday Shankar. Amala reached Paris just by wearing a frock.

It was around that time due to the kind courtesy of Hemangini Devi, mother of legendary Uday Shankar who presented young Amala with a sari which she gladly accepted. After the receipt of saree, young Amala Nandy (prior to marriage) joined the Uday Shankar dance troupe and started performing across the globe. It was in the year 1939 when young Amala Nandy was staying with Uday Shankar in undivided Madras (now renamed as Chennai) and became deeply intimidated with legendary dancer. Uday Shankar gave her the wedding proposal which young Amala gladly accepted the proposal from her later life partner. Finally both of them tied up nuptial knot in the year 1942.

In the same year on December this talented couple gave birth to their first child Ananda in the same year on December 11, who later on became more popular as legendary music composer and was instrumental in intermixing of Western music into Indian classical music. Again in the year 1955 this talented couple gave birth to their second child who is now popularly known as Mamata Shankar, who has now attained widespread acclaim as a danseuse, actor and compeer of international repute.

Achievements of Amala Shankar

It was in the year 1948 Late Amala Shankar acted in the film Kalpana which was directed by Late Uday Shankar along with writings, co-produced and directed by the legend. Young Amala Shankar played the role of Uma. She acted in the film with her husband Uday Shankar and Lakshmi Kanta. After a prolong gap of 81 years (from 1931-2012) Amala Shankar attented Cannes Film Festival where the film Kalpana was screened in the above stated year. It was in the year 2013 Amala Shankar was crowned with the Kalakar award.

Apart from the above honor she was also fortunate to receive Soviet Land Nehru Award, West Bengal State Academy of Dance, Drama and Music Award, Nritya Shiromoni Award, Mother Teresa Life Achievement Award, Padma Bhusan by government of India in the year 1991 etc various other accolades and kudos in her prolonged life. Late Amala Shankar was also crowned with the Tagore fellow for her contribution to the world of Indian Dance. Late Pandit Ravi Shankar, noted sitarist was her brother in law. Another cousin brother in law of Amala Shankar was another legend in the world of Indian dance was Sachin Shankar from Mumbai, India.

In her last days of her life Amala Shankar was mentally very agile about the world of dance. She guided her daughter and now till her last breathed her last on July 24, 2020 at the ripe old age of 101 years. Late Amala Shankar was also proficient in various dance forms like Manipuri, Kathakali and Bharat Natyam. Under the encouragement of her husband Late Uday Shankar, she appeared in prominent dance dramas on account of which she earned widespread adulations and encomiums across the country and also in other parts of the globe. In Kolkata she established Uday Shankar India Cultural Center from where many prominent dancers irrespective of males and females achieved widespread popularities within the country and also across the globe.

Late Amala Shankar is survived by her only daughter Mamata Shanker, noted dancer, actor and compeer of repute, daughter-in-law Tanusree Shankar, granddaughter Sreenanda Shanker, grandsons Ratul Shankar and Rajit Shankar. Her only son noted musician Ananda Shankar departed for eternal peace and salvation way back in year on 1999 on March 26. Anyhow her daughter Mamata Shankar with the cooperation of her husband Chandradoy Ghosh, grandsons Ratul and Rajit, daughter in  law Tanushree Shankar and granddaughter Sreenanda Shanker will definitely keep alive  the noble traditions of this Great Gharana of dance India ever produced.

Though there are many performers in the field but the Uday Shankar Amala Shankar duo gharana with their talented family members cannot be compared with others. They are always supreme even in the upcoming days of our life. So wherever Late Amala Shankar will be it is our sincerest desires her departed soul should be rest in peace. She will continue to bless the modern dancers from which part of the world she remains.

The writer is a freelance
contributor based in Kolkata.

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