Shriya Saran Kathak dancer & performer, Indian actor
While citizens across the globe are strictly advised to stay indoors and self-quarantine, many of us seem to be doing it right like the poised and charismatic Kathak dancer, performer and Indian actor Shriya Saran. Whether it is reading books, dancing, meditating or eating healthy, she does it all! She radiates positivity, joy and channels the Divine energy of Stree Shakti in her. Read on to know how dance helps her transcend into another dimension.
What does Stree Shakti mean to U?
Stree Shakti to me, means this invisible source of energy which I feel inside me every day, which connects me to my creator, the universal energy. This Shakti gives me the ability to love, to have strength during the hardest of times. This emotional strength that women are blessed gives me the emotional support and courage I need to achieve the impossible.
Women nurture and have an intense powerhouse of Shakti within us. Every day is a celebration of gratitude, and Shree Shakti is also about the women who I’ve met in my life. I hope the Shakti within me keeps me inspired to achieve my dreams, and help all women around me to achieve their goals as well. Another excellent quality of women is to help others in need unconditionally. Few things which I want to continue to do is give love and help others.
How would you describe UR relationship with 9 Devi’s?
All the nine days of Navratri which represent the nine Devi avatars and colours are lovely to me. These powerful 9 Devi’s help you channel UR inner strength and materialize UR goals, inner happiness and peace.
What Devi Shakti avatar do you most relate to & why?
The two Devi Shakti avatars who I relate to are Maha Gauri – the remover of all suffering & Maa Siddhidatri – the remover of ignorance. Both of these attributes and energies is something we all need in our lives right now! 2020 has been an extremely tough year for a lot of people. Many people have suffered gravely, lost some of their loved ones and still are in pain. This is why we need Devi Shakti avatar’s the most in our lives right now.
This energy is so divine and beautiful; it has such an intense meaning that I think it’s hard to choose. I pray that something magical happens and cleans away people’s fate and become optimistic than ever before.
What role does performing arts play in one’s mental well-being journey?
Dance is essential to me. Before I could walk, I was told I started to dance. I still remember dancing in the rain, getting in the balcony and dancing with my mom while I enjoyed every bit of it. I was passionate about dancing, and it felt like dance was in my blood.
My mom then decided to take me to learn dance from my guru Shovana Narayan in Delhi. From where I later started acting and got busy with acting. Later on, I later realized that I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing. I was getting anxiety attacks, and I was kind of close to a bit of depression, which made me realize I was unhappy. There was no reason for me to be unhappy. I had everything any girl could ever ask for. This feeling made me get back to dancing, and I found my other Kathak guru Nautan Patwardhan in Bombay.
I automatically became happy after I started dancing, and it’s scientifically proven that when you indulge in any performing art, sports, or any activity of UR liking, this will naturally boost the happy hormones (endorphins) in UR brain. This entire process to me was seamlessly beautiful and priceless. If U do what you love, then trust me there is no space for unhappiness!
What is UR fitness regimen or go-to exercise to stay mentally & physically fit?
To stay mentally fit, I laugh a lot and surround myself with happy people. I also practice Vipassana, which is a form of meditation that was passed on by Gautam Buddha. Vipassana is taught all around the world for free, and once U start practicing Vipassana, you will understand what it can genuinely do for UR mind’s mental peace and health.
How has dance helped your body, why do you consider it UR superpower?
I feel my body is at its best when I’m dancing a lot. Some people’s body responds better to the gym or any other form of workout. To me, dance is my form of workout and happiness. I’m such a happy soul when I’m dancing, and it’s great for my body, soul and mind!
I don’t know if dance is my superpower, but I know that it has always driven me, made me feel happy and blessed. I’m thankful for my mother my first teacher, my guru Shovana Narayan Ji and Nautan Patwardhan, Brinda Master, Prabhu Deva & Raju Sundaram. I’m super grateful to have all of them in my life!
What gives you the most strength?
My strength comes from the people I surround myself with, my parents, teachers, friends, failures and from every day. I was writing a gratitude column for myself, and I was grateful for everything, but I forgot to thank that I can see, breathe and that I am alive to experience the simple pleasures of life. I feel when U start feeling things and seeing things for what they are, it becomes UR biggest strength. When UR knowledge becomes UR wisdom, it becomes UR superpower and gives you strength!
What is UR relationship with food, what is UR diet like?
I used to eat a lot of food, and I still love food. When I visit Hyderabad, I need my dosa, chutney and curry! I’m one of those foodies who learnt how to cook during the lockdown because I needed to feed myself! I’m lucky to have a good metabolism and food habits which I’ve inherited from my mother.
My family and I always ate healthily; we avoided junk food and aerated drinks in our diet. I grew up in a small colony where there weren’t a lot of restaurants or cafes around nearby, so if you wanted good food, you had to be best friends the aunties in the colony. My mother always cooked for us and made sure we got all our nutrients. I was a fussy eater when it came to vegetables when I was young. My husband and I do a lot of Vipassana, and it made us realize that we weren’t enjoying eating meat anymore. So, we decided to try becoming a flexitarian and eat meat when we wanted to. It’s been a year since my husband and I have turned vegetarian.
I think it’s crucial what U put in UR body. When you eat meat UR eating an animal’s negative emotions if they are killed in the wrong way, if it was scared or had anger. All of these emotions get absorbed into UR body, which I certainly didn’t want anymore. My husband and I love eating healthier and energetic. I feel my body is responding much better to a vegetarian diet when compared to my previous food choices and regular diet. I’m less anxious, and I feel great.
What has dance taught U in life, how and what did it heal for U?
I’ve learned many things from dance and Riyaz (Practice) is one of them. Practice and consistency is everything. Riyaz is learning to paint and perfect the same stroke or memorizing how to play UR favourite song on the piano. But with dance UR constantly using UR muscle memory, which makes UR mind become mentally fit and strong.
Dance sequence have a lot of numbers and kathak is all about the fundamental movements of kathak like parans, and it has a lot of numbers in the dance sequences, which makes it such a great memory and learning exercise for UR brain. My teacher always says that the rhythm can’t go wrong when UR dancing like how the rhythm can’t go wrong in god’s creation.
Dance has taught me to respect my teachers and my elders. In classical Indian dance, you always start the class by greeting the teacher by touching their feet and doing pranam. This constantly teaches you how to be humble, love and helps you stay in reality.
Dance also teaches me how to learn to be grateful and pray. Every performance is a lesson; the possibilities are endless. When I’m dancing on stage, I feel a connection with cosmic and universal energy which is indescribable. The energy transcends my body into another dimension; it’s completely beyond me. Classical dance has taught me how to be a team player and how to work with the musicians, teachers and other dancers. Most importantly, dance has taught me the value of being on stage and being in front of an audience its really beautiful. The more you learn to dance, soon you will realize there’s so much to learn. If U follow this mindset and live UR life to learning, then things will start to change for U.
How do you celebrate the Devi Within U?
The best way to celebrate the Devi in U by reaching out to strong, independent and sparring women around me. I’m extremely grateful for the Devi’s presence, and I try to celebrate life with joy and gratitude no matter what life gives you.
What’s UR message to the world to stay optimistic during COVID?
I find it hard to stay positive all the time and that’s one thing which I’ve done is to give love and be part of any NGO who is doing good work. When you give love, you receive happiness and positivity. This too, shall pass. We need to be optimistic and be inspired for a bright and beautiful future which is waiting for us. It is very important to believe, and this is what I’m doing. I miss work, family and going outdoors, but I know when this is all over the Devi in me will give me strength to stay happy and positive. Taking up a new hobby like an online dance or music class can also help keep UR mind engaged and optimistic.
What is UR powerful message to all the wonderful women that are inspired by U?
What I’ve learned over the years is to be yourself, love yourself, stay happy, blessed and joyous. URLife is beautiful if you go out and experience it, believe in UR dreams. I love women who have a dream and who have been turning it into reality through commitment and dedication. I get inspired by life because I always keep myself inspired—Spread UR love and positivity.
What do you consider as UR blessings?
My parents and friends are my biggest blessings. I think I was lucky enough to get good chances in my life. When life hands U an opportunity grab it and take that leap of faith. I am blessed to have met my equally crazy husband, wonderful people, to have travelled to stunning locations, to have seen the sunrise and sunset. I hope you all also stay blessed during the pandemic.
5 women U admire
My mother and I have grown close during the pandemic. She really believed in me when I took up dance. It is really important for us to take care of our parents, especially during the pandemic. Staying connected with UR parents can make them feel happy and healthy.
Indira Noori is also someone who I’m inspired by. I saw her interview once, and I fell in love with her strength and how she balances work and family life.
Amrita Shergil, who was an artist. I studied art from when I was young. I was very inspired by her. And she left a legacy behind her; I would love to meet this fab woman one day.
Ms Subbulakshmi has a lovely voice, my husband and I love her mesmerizing voice and vibe.
Sitara Devi is one of my favourite dancers. I wish I had the chance to meet her; she was a lovely dancer.