14 Apr , Himansha , BE final year,Bhopal : Mallika Sarabhai is the Gujarat-based activist, development worker, social entrepreneur and performer, who has tirelessly worked towards bringing to fore ideas, issues and concerns to affect change. A multi-talented creative individual, she celebrates positive reaffirmation of images of womanhood. She has used every medium—dance, theatre, television, film, writing and publishing—for her work, winning recognition in India and abroad.
She has challenged audiences to sit up and think, and to realign themselves to critical questions of gender bias, communal hatred, the environment, corruption, violence and more.
Mallika was educated as an economist and a business manager from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and obtained a PhD from the Gujarat University for her thesis in the area of Organisational Behaviour. She is known as one of India’s best-known Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi dancers, who has taken her work and that of her company Darpana, to over ninety countries of the world and to the farthest parts of India.
She is the director of Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, a workshop for the arts in Ahmedabad, where the focus is on excellence and the use of arts for social change. In 1977 she took over the reigns of Darpana, founded by her parents Mrinalini and Vikram Sarabhai. Through Darpana, Mallika has hosted and collaborated with eminent artists, academics and development professionals in India and abroad, fostering creative interactions of people in Gujarat with such individuals and groups.
In 1982 she founded Darpana for Development to concentrate on developing performance as a language for change; and Janavak, the voice of the people, to archive, record and preserve folk and tribal culture.
Mallika was chosen to play the lead character of Draupadi in the international theatre production of The Mahabharata by world-renowned director Peter Brook. She spent five years performing the play in French and English, and playing the role in the film and TV versions, to much accolade. On her return to India in 1989 she got deeply involved in creating her own contemporary dance vocabulary beginning with her first solo theatrical work, Shakti: The Power of Women.
She is also an actor who has been in more than thirty films, some so avant garde that though they won accolades for her they never saw the light of day in theaters. In 1979 she became publisher of the country’s first design magazine, Inside Outside. This was her introduction to the production side of the written word, a world in which as a reader she had long been immersed. In 1985 she co-founded Mapin Publishing. Over the decades Mapin has become a much respected international art book publisher with over three hundred titles.
Mallika has also been a newspaper columnist, writing for Times of India (“View from the Bridge”) earlier, and now for Daily News and Analysis (“Just Speaking”) in English and for Divya Bhaskar in Gujarati.
From 2000 to 2002 she was CEO of TARA Gujarati, a TV channel dedicated to using mainstream genres of programming for activism. She co-founded Darpana Communications in 2001 to harness the potential of TV in changing attitudes and fighting social prejudice. She has produced over 2500 hours of broadcast programming in Gujarati dealing, through fiction, chat shows, music videos and other genres, with issues of gender bias, communal hatred, the environment, corruption, violence and more.
Of the many awards and recognitions received in India and abroad, she was honoured by Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Creative Dance, and awarded The Film Development Corporation of Gujarat’s Award for the Unique Contribution to Gujarati Cinema, and the Gaurav Puraskar, for Contribution to the Arts awarded by the Government of Gujarat.
Her work has received rave reviews and appreciation across the world. She was recently awarded the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, for her contribution to the arts. The French government has honoured her with the highest civilian award, the French Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. She was also nominated as one among 1000 women globally for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.
In 2001, after the genocide against the Muslims in Gujarat, the state where she lives and works, she took up cudgels against the government and the state machinery, filing a public interest litigation against them in the Supreme Court of India, and becoming an instant target for right wing violence and continues to face active hostility.
Today, she creates and performs, gives lectures and workshops, makes films, writes and speaks, all in the hope of being able to spark something that will lead to a more just and humane world.