Sharmila Mukherjee – Odissi dancer

Artistic Director & Founder – Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance, Bangalore

Sharmila Mukerjee, a professional Odissi dancer, is Grade A artist of Doordarshan channel. Having started
her training under the legendary master, the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in 1984, Sharmila has been performing for almost 30 years now.

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Being an Established Artist of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, she has performed all over the world as a Cultural Ambassador of the country. Sharmila Mukerjee is also a reputed choreographer and creates her own dance compositions, productions and ballets. Currently she runs her own academy – Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance in Bangalore and continues to train many students at her institute. She is instrumental in popularising the Odissi dance form in South India.

Excerpts from the interview

Odissi as a Classical Dance Form
“Odissi has grown by leaps and bounds. It was officially recognised by Sangeet Natak Akademi (the National Level Academy for performing arts set up by the Government of India) as late as 1958. Odissi has become very popular now thanks to the works of many performers, scholars and Gurus. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was very instrumental in popularising the dance form all over the world.”

Incorporating Art/Dance Forms As a Regular Part of the School Curriculum
“Everyone cannot or is not born with the talent to dance. There may be a large number of students who are not interested and it could become difficult for the teacher to teach seriously. But there are other ways to make all students aware of our culture and heritage. It could be introduced as an optional subject or an extra-curricular activity as it stresses a lot on physical fitness, discipline and it releases stress for sure.”
Steps to Encourage Students to Pursue Their Passion in Classical Art Forms
“To organise on a regular basis, workshops, talks, lecture performances by artists is one way of getting them interested and knowing more about how they should pursue it.”
The Uncertainty of Pursuing Arts as a Career
“It is not easy as it is financially unstable. But young people are coming into it more than earlier which is a good thing. Passion, sincerity, honesty, dedication and a love for the art form is necessary. It is a profession which grows as one grows older and more experienced so it is easier at a senior level and that is the time the performer can choose to become a full time teacher and choreographer and train younger performers to come up.”
The Social MindSet
“It has changed. Nowadays people are more open and accepting. Earlier it was almost taboo. Nowadays the mindset has changed and there are more options and more exposure for young people who would want to take it up as a career.”
Awards & Accolades
Singar Mani (1989), 2016 Mahari Award, 2016 BCKA Kalasreshtha Award are among some of the awards she has won for her contribution to Odissi Dance. She also won a scholarship to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for dance composition in the year 2000.
Advice to the Youth Today
“To follow your heart and your passion. Very few people are born with the talent or the affinity towards any art form- be it dance, music or painting. If you have the talent and love for it, maybe it is destined to be so don’t fight destiny and pursue whatever your passion lies in.
Parents should support and encourage their children if they choose something out of the ordinary. The world is a canvas and they can paint wherever they want to- it’s the same canvas in the end. Art has no barrier.
Sincerity and loyalty toward your guru or teacher is a must. Don’t run after success, if hard work and sincerity is there, success will run after you.” Ms Mukherjee ended with her favorite quote by Martha Graham:
‘People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose. I was chosen to be a dancer, and with that, you live all your life. ‘
Contact: Sharmila Mukerjee, Artistic Director/Founder
Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance, Flat
A-012, Fern Saroj Apartments, 7th Cross,
L.B Shastrynagar, P.O: Vimanapura, Bangalore – 560017,
Tel. +91 80 4211 0177 /  +91 98862 31500,