What’s Love Got To Do With Art, Rasa And Life

Everything. Experiencing this beautiful emotion broadens an artiste’s perspective.

By Arushi Mudgal

For centuries, the one feeling or state that has been and continues to be most dominant and close to everyone’s heart is love. Charlie Chaplin once said, “You need power only when you want to do something harmful, otherwise love is enough to get everything done.” Love has been the primary subject of work for artistes across fields. It is not without reason that ‘sringara rasa’ is considered the mother of all rasas. Be it poetry, cinema, music, dance, or painting – it is a rare to find an artiste or an art-work untouched by love.

One may, yet, wonder if love is one of those things that grabs more hype than necessary. Why did Kalidasa make the love of Parvati and Shiva his main focus in Kumarasambhavam, when it was to be only a means to bring about the birth of Kartikeya who was to destroy Tarakasura? And, if not for love, Romeo and Juliet would have had the chance of living long happy lives, perhaps with their respective partners. And was it not Sita’s love for Rama that led her to accompany him to the forest for the vanavasa, which triggered a series of events that finally led to the battle between Rama and Ravana?

One thing is certain. Life would have been much less complicated without love. But, would it have been as complete and colourful? I can but speak for myself.

“You will know when it happens”

As a child, I remember something my guru (Guru Madhavi Mudgal ji) used to say, especially while teaching an abhinaya – “You will, of course, understand the depth of this later with age and experience, but you must try now.” I remember being rather hurt by this statement that I thought to be fairly unfair then. I would be indignant at not being taken seriously enough simply on the basis of my age. And, more often than not, every piece would boil down to ‘love’. What was this thing that would happen only when it would? I was almost at a state of battle with it. Over the years, I remember asking my seniors about what love is. Most of them would smile coyly and say, “You’ll know when it happens.” This answer would further exasperate me, to say the least.

Words in sahitya started speaking to me

I truly believed that I did not actually need to fall in love and be in a state of ‘viraha’ to portray Radha convincingly in Jayadev’s ‘pashyati dishi dishi’. I would imagine myself in the situation and emote accordingly. And I was fairly content with the way things worked, until one fine day, when things started ‘happening’ on their own. I was no longer trying to create the situation in my head. It did not matter if the situation was something I had experienced in life or not, but I would still know the feeling. The words of the text were no longer simply woven together beautifully, but they started speaking to me. I started seeing images that were not necessarily mentioned in the text. My experience of life in general started becoming fuller.

Every season feels like Basant

Love – or even just the idea of it – does that to us. We start daydreaming, creating ‘original’ works of art by scribbling hearts with select alphabets on the back of books, smiling shyly to ourselves after reading the names of our secret love behind a car or a board, listening to a song on repeat if it reminds us of them, and most importantly, every romantic film becomes the story of our lives. Romanticising everything in life becomes a natural phenomenon. There is newly-found beauty in the things once thought to be mundane. Every season feels like vasant/spring, the season of love. The trees, the birds, the same squirrels that cross our path – the entire world at once comes to life. There is a sense of depth to everything. I say ‘depth’ after much thought, because it is hard to put in words this feeling. It is something that makes the experience of every aspect of life richer and palpable. You do not while away, rather, you live and feel every moment. All emotions in love seem beautiful; and by beautiful, I mean true and powerful.

You may well have felt them before, but the intensity of these reaches another level. They may not be happy all the time, but the pain is also worth feeling. Love happens at various levels. It is multilayered, like a painting where the canvas is filled with infinite colours, lines, shapes, and strokes – nothing is defined, nothing is right or wrong.

Love, rasa, art

It is a different journey for everyone. Contrary to common belief, it has little to do with possession. It is not restricted to the bond between lovers, but rather, is a strong connect that you may feel towards another individual, your family, towards nature and other beings, towards work, towards art, or even towards the divine.

Experiencing love matures you and broadens your perspective of life. You naturally develop a greater understanding of people, their emotions and behaviour, making you more empathetic and accepting. Your sensitivity towards the finer nuances of life grows. This increases the capacity to express, which is the sole purpose of art; artistes create to express. One may well relate this to rasa. It is not that life cannot be lived without it, but rasa enhances the experience of life and its various shades. Love creates rasa in life. In fact, they are all interconnected – love, rasa, and art. Artist Marc Chagall beautifully sums this up, “Art must be an expression of love, or it is nothing.”

— Arushi Mudgal is a renowned practitioner of Odissi.

Featured image: Photo for Ecoloom by Sourabh Saxena.