At the age of seven, Aslihan Karavas, a German girl of Turkish origin, watched Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, her first Bollywood movie in Munich. And this little girl decided there and then that she wanted to be a dancer when she grows up.
Aslihan says in 2000s the Bollywood movies were quite popular in Germany. Interested in the Indian culture, Aslihan started learning more about India and Bollywood movies were the easiest way to know about India.
“Since then I and a friend of mine started watching Indian movies, listened to Bollywood songs, bought Indian clothing and jewellery,” says Aslihan.
“As a kid I tried to imitate dance moves while watching Bollywood movies. At school events, I performed to Bollywood songs with my friend. So, you can say that I learnt to dance by myself.”
She wanted to join a proper Indian dance school but didn’t have the money to pay the fee.
However, when she moved to Istanbul in 2016 to study, she decided to enroll in a Kathak dance school.
“A friend told me about a dance group named Takadhimi which teaches Kathak among other dance forms. I was really happy that I found a place to fulfill my dream – to learn the Indian classical dance. I began to do research on Kathak and I was really inspired. So, I decided to take the Kathak classes. Since October 2017, I am learning Kathak dance under the tutelage of Rajesh Rapaka.
Martha Graham said: “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” Aslihan says: “Kathak helps me make my soul rise and shine!”
Aslihan says: “All dance forms may aim to tell a story, but Kathak is the only dance form which could make me conscious about creating narratives in dancing. The root word itself (katha) means ‘storytelling. So, Kathak openly discusses the importance of enlivening stories through expression using face, hands and feet. Therefore, when I perform Kathak I learn to be self-aware and be conscious about expressing my inner thoughts.”
Aslihan further says: “What makes Kathak special to me is also the grace of the dancer. The spirit of Kathak reminds me of true Venus energy, the planet of beauty, music, and dance. A Kathak dancer is able to touch the soul of the audience by movements. This is magical.”
The love affair with the Bollywood films which began at the age of seven has grown stronger. Aslihan says the movies of Sanjay Leela Bhansali have been inspirational for her. “Movies like ‘Devdas’ (which is my all-time favourite) or Bajirao Mastani are the best showcase of the Indian classical music and dance like ‘Mohe Rang Do Laal’. But but I totally fell in love with Madhuri Dixit’s dance in ‘Kaahe Chhed Mohe’.”
Aslihan says: “‘Devdas’ holds a special place in my heart because it was the first movie which introduced me to Kathak. I always look up to Madhuri when I watch this movie because the beauty of Kathak amazes me.”
She also drew inspiration from songs of Umrao Jaan.
Incidentally, Aslihan gave her first performance at the recently held Indian film festival in Stuttgart, Germany. She also performed at the Indian Sports Day in Munich.
Despite, achieving so much, Aslihan’s one dream remains unfulfilled – a visit to India. She has never visited India. But she says it is on her wish list and one day she will definitely come to the country which has given Kathak to the world.