Veenapani Chawla

Our Guru, our light.
Founder of Adishakti

Veenapani ChawlaVeenapani Chawla (1947 – 2014) established Adishakti in 1981. Her academic background consists of an M.A. History, Delhi University; M.A Political Philosophy, Bombay University, B. Ed., Bombay University. She has been examined by the Trinity College of Music, London, for Singing and Piano; trained with Patsy Rodenberg, the Voice Coach of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London; and was briefly in Eugenio Barba’s Odin Teatret at Holstebro, Denmark. In India she has learnt Mayurbhanj Chhau, Kalaripayattu, Koodiyattam, and Dhrupad singing.

She has directed most of Adishakti’s performances and scripted half of these. Her work has toured India as well as internationally. In 1996 her Impressions of Bhima was performed in Paris, New York {Asia Society} and at UCLA. Her Brhannala was performed at the Singapore Arts Festival, Edinburgh Festival, New York {Asia Society} and the Bonn Biennale. Ganapati was performed at the House of World Cultures, Berlin, at Mousonturm, Frankfurt and Kampnagel , Hamburg.

Since 1987 Veenapani has been engaged in research towards creating a performance methodology based on old knowledges. This methodology involves a physical craft to facilitate the actor’s vocal, bodily and psychological expression. She has been disseminating this through workshops, performances and papers at Adishakti and other national and international venues. Thus in 2006 she was a speaker at the Berkshire Conference, USA and in March 2007 she presented a paper at the International Seminar on Theatre Performance Techniques at the Department of Performing Arts and Culture Industries at the University of Leeds, UK. In November of the year she conducted a Workshop supported by the Orient Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal, on Performance Methods based on Indian Knowledges.

In April 2010 she conducted workshops for internationally renowned theatre directors, through a program called the Directors Forum, organized by the Centre for Performance Research, Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK. Veenapani has also been concerned to develop a unique aesthetic for contemporary theatre, which would make the genre relevant in the time of cinema.

She has been recognized with grants from the Ford Foundation{1987}, the Charles Wallace India Trust, the Department of Culture, the Det Lange Udvalga in Denmark and the India Foundation of the Arts. In 1988, she was nominated to the Advisory Committee of the Kathak Kendra (Sangeet Natak Academy, New Delhi, India), and in 1994 was awarded an extended Senior Fellowship from the Department of Culture in New Delhi. In 1997 she was nominated by the Department of Culture as an expert in the fields of Folk, Traditional and Indigenous Arts. In 1998, she was appointed Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai.

In 2006 she received a Fellowship for a one month Residency at Villa Waldberta, Munich. In the same year she received the Zee Astitva Award for excellence in Theatre. In 2007 Veenapani was appointed on the Board of Editors for “Theatre, Dance and Performance Training” a theatre journal published from the University of Leeds, UK, by Routledge.

Since 1999 Veenapani has been engaged in designing the Adishakti campus, which houses the members of the Adishakti Theatre, Dance, Music and Puppetry Repertory Company. The artists’ residences, the Guest House and Theatre on the Adishakti campus are the result of a collaboration between her and architect Srinivas Vasthukam of Kerala: a former student of Laurie Baker.

In 2011 she was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puruskar for Theatre Director. She was also recognised through a book edited by Shanta Gokhale, published by Oxford University Press, India: The Theatre of Veenapani Chawla – Theory, Practice and Performance, published in 2014.



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