One time Calcutta girl and now UK academic Dr Royona Mitra has just published a book on Akram Khan, about whom I have good news.
Britain’s most celebrated contemporary Kathak dancer, who was last in Calcutta in September 2012, is returning to the city during a tour of India in November.
This time he is coming with a production called Torobaka , which I saw last week at Sadler’s Wells in London (Akram’s parents, Mosharaf and Anwa-ra Khan, were there, too, as was Royona).
The work is a duet, almost a clash between two cultures represented by Akram (born into a Bangladeshi family in south London in 1974) and a Spanish flamenco dancer, Israel Galván (born 1973 in Seville).
Torobaka combines two Spanish words – toro (bull) and baka (cow).
Royona, who lived in Calcutta till the age of 18, trained in Kathak as a little girl with the Dancers’ Guild. After coming to the UK, she did her first degree at Plymouth, her MA at Royal Holloway in London and taught for six years at Wolverhampton before returning to Royal Holloway to do her PhD – on Akram.
Her book, Akram Khan: Dancing New Interculturalism (Palgrave Macmillan; £55), “is a significant rewrite of the PhD,” she says.
Royona, who is now a lecturer in theatre at Brunel University, recalls how her life changed when she saw Akram for the first time 15 years ago: “He was mercurial.”