“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new; when an age ends; when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.”
-Jawaharlal Nehru, Independence Day Speech on August 15, 1947.
I came to India to search for the essence of Indian arts on stage and screen. By encountering India, I met the innermost part of myself. As a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar at Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai, I saw the profound professional and personal transformation that occurred during my 9-month residency in film, theatre, and dance. India blends heightened expressivity with diplomacy. As a result, I developed a motto: drama on stage and screen.
On Fulbright fellowships, some opportunities can be arranged in advance and others need to be developed in-country. To accomplish my comparison of telling the same story in different mediums, it required meeting, greeting, and networking. It was equally important to read The Ramayana and The Mahabharata to understand the socio-historical perspectives. By studying performing arts with gurus, attending performing arts concerts, participating in community and social events, this allowed me to see how Indians interpreted and interacted with the arts as acculturation came gradually through multiple mediums.
These interpersonal connections influenced the course of my project, “Media as Mediator.” Beginning with New Orleans connections in Chennai and my official affiliations, the project emerged through interactions. I am grateful to those who invited me into cultural experiences that informed the way that I processed readings, performed arts, and religious and community events. Finding gurus to teach dance, yoga, chant, and meditation led to increased awareness about the importance of nurturing interpersonal relationships in life and art.
In India, equanimity is cultivated. Being calm, cool, and collected under any circumstance is aspirational. As a dramatic artist, I sought opportunities through yoga, chant, and meditation, which developed equanimity. Interestingly enough, the inner calm allowed the expressivity to become clearer and more detailed: calming emotions led to deeper engagement with character. Whether I was writing, performing, choreographing, or directing, this inner calm allowed characters to flow through me across the mediums of writing, dance, theatre, and film. Seeing this unity in the current of the story allowed for the dance “Liquid Gems,” the play Ravi’s Revenge, and the Collywood musical film Pancha Ratna to chart a new course in life.
Inasmuch as these creations of art for stage and screen linger, the relationships impressed me most. How colleagues and artists deftly handled challenging situations informs how I interact today. Through the Fulbright-Nehru fellowship, I have developed a modicum of equanimity that leads to self-advocacy in a way that can be heard and affect the change I aspire to become. Equanimity is synonymous with freedom.
Artemis Preeshl – Fulbright to India 2010-2011