The book cover of Raisa: The Dance Of Desire Photograph:( WION Web Team )
Author Koral Dasgupta has always used Indian art, music and dance as a poignant element in her stories. The stories always give an insight into an unknown world of creativity and imaginations. Her first fiction Fall Winter Collection, spoke about music and art in the pristine Shantiniketan, her second fiction, Rasia: The Dance Of Desire, uses Bharatnatyam as a backdrop for a story of love, passion, obsession and jealousy and takes the readers to Mumbai, bylanes of Kolkata and the stony structures of Manhattan.
Dasgupta uses Bharatnatyam as a common thread to string together the three main characters of her book. Both Manasi and Vatsala are good dancers but with completely different temperament. Both are in love with Shekhar, a dynamic leader of Kala Mandir- the dance school that he and his wife Manasi run together. Shekhar's devotion to dance is unmatched and his decision in life have all centred around his love for the dance form.
While Manasi is calm, loyal and devoted to her husband's cause, Vatsala is erratic, stubborn and almost challenges Shekhar to teach her dance. Sparks fly almost immediately when Shekhar and Vatsala first meet. He is intrigued by her stubbornness and to ward her off initially, gives her impossible tasks and yet she doesn't relent which eventually draws Shekhar towards her.
The book cover of Rasia: The Dance Of Desire (via Koral Dasgupta) (WION)
Dasgupta uses multiple narrators to take the story forward and as a result, it is difficult to root for one character solely as you get perspective of all of them. The narrative also keeps travelling, from bylanes of Kolkata to the calm Kala Mandir in Mumbai to the maddening Manhattan, New York where Shekhar and Manasi along with their students perform the most ambitious ballet - aptly titled Rasia - a dance between Lord Shiva and his two divine consorts, Gauri and Kali.
While dance binds the three characters, they are uniquely different from each other. At its core is Shekhar, a self-made man who left a regular, comfortable job to pursue his passion for dance. There is a method to his madness, his obsession with dance and while he loves his wife and his people unconditionally, it is also weirdly guided by ambition. His wife, Manasi, on the other hand, is shy, introvert and overtly loyal to her husband. Manasi is the reason behind Shekhar's stupendous rise yet she keeps herself in the background and lets her man bask in the glory. The third character in the story, Vatsala is impulsive and is stubborn and her obsession with Shekhar leads to havoc in his and Manasi's marriage.
To her credit, Dasgupta, keeps the language fluid making the book engaging throughout. to describe any dance form through words is difficult, but Dasgupta paints a vivid picture making Bharatnatyam and the people involved with the dance form come alive. In fact, the book has cinematic quality because of its riveting tale of love and obsession.
Should you be reading Rasia? For sure, because not only does it talk of a beautiful story of a man and wife but it also helps in delving a little deeper into Indian classical dance forms.
Price: Rs 169