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Asha Sharath on stage . Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Dubai-based Indian actress and trained classical dancer Asha Sharath, whose credits include Malayalam blockbusters ‘Drishyam’ and ‘Varsham’, has launched a series of virtual dance masterclasses, triggered by social distancing measures due to COVID-19.

“Honestly, at first I wasn’t very positive about this whole virtual dance classes idea. But due to COVID-19 outbreak, our face-to-face classes had to be sacrificed for a long period of time. My students seem to be forgetting what they learnt and many were frustrated about not being able to learn something new. We were in a state of creative limbo and something had to be done,” said Sharath in an interview with Gulf News over the phone from Kerala.

The award-winning actress, known for her role as a stern police officer trying to find her missing son in ‘Drishyam’, was on the sets of the movie’s sequel in Kerala with top actor Mohanlal when we spoke about her new project.

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In 'Drishyam'.

Sharath, who has run her own dance academy in the UAE since 2003, has put together the curriculum for dance forms ranging from Bharatnatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi and Bollywood dance.

“My online classes is open to all those who are passionate about dance and music. Age is no bar in courses. You can be 50 plus or you can be housewife with rusty dancing skills … The important thing is that you can learn it all from the comfort of your home. I have installed huge television in my classes so that we can see our student directly,” she said.

Sharath is also keen to eliminate qualms about distance learning in today’s unusual times where there are several restrictions on travelling and social interactions. Her fears that virtual dance classes may not be as effective as in-person ones were equally valid, the actress believes.

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With Mammootty in the movie 'Varsham'.

“Initially, problems like how I cannot correct my student’s posture held me back from launching my own online classes. There are limitations, agreed. But to avoid that issue we will send tutorial videos to our students a day before class for them to get a basic idea about what they will learn the next day. We will send them a detailed syllabus to each one of us and they are required to send videos of what they learnt so that we can correct them,” said Sharath. Each virtual session will have limited students to ensure perfection. The teachers on call are also trained professional dancers.

So, how involved will Sharath be?

“I will take some of the classes, but not all … But my mother [Kalamandalam Sumathy] is a national award-winning dancer and will take classes for our students from all over the world. She’s 75 plus, but this will be one of the rare opportunities to learn from her,” she said.

Her mother — who is an acclaimed danseuse in India — sowed the seed for the online masterclasses. Actors including Boman Irani have launched their own series of masterclasses. Like Irani, who has been teaching screenwriting, the actress believes that COVID-19 has led to creative artists pushing their boundaries.

“COVID has come with a lot of downsides, but it also gave us opportunities to do so many other things. For the first time, we have got time to do things that we are truly passionate about … I always tell women to save some time for themselves and to follow their passion … I have taught students from the age of 5 to 75 … It’s never too late to learn,” she said.

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Asha Sharath at the South Indian International Movie Awards in Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Sharath is known for her classical dance skills, but it was her turn in ‘Drishyam’ as a stern IPS official and troubled mother to a dysfunctional teenager that got her statewide attention.

“It was a painful role to play as an artist and as a mother. I had to come across as a frustrated mother who knew that her teenager son’s deeds were wrong but she can’t help love her son. I played the same role in its Tamil and Kannada versions … As an artist, I am so glad to be a part of its sequel … I want this role to be better than the first instalment of ‘Drishyam’,” the actress said.

After seven years, the crew of the hit thriller ‘Drishyam’ have reunited in Thodupuzha in Kerala to film its crucial portions. Temperature checks, limited crew and technicians with masks are part of Sharath’s new normal.

“Honestly, it doesn’t feel like it has been seven years since we have all met for this film. All those whom I have met have spoken with such high regard for my character. They loved the way the character was delicately balanced,” she said.

Directed by Jeethu Joseph, the sequel will take off from where the original ended. Mohanlal played a middle-class parent who goes to extreme lengths to cover up the killing of a teenager who blackmails his daughter with a salacious video. The cat and mouse game between Sharath’s and Mohanlal’s characters form the crux of the thriller.

“Many keep wondering how my character as a career woman and a troubled mother could live with the reality that her son isn’t alive … The sequel will explore that strain … It’s a complicated character that I thoroughly enjoyed playing. Also, we are being extremely careful while filming during COVID-19 times. We are taking periodic tests to check if we are safe to shoot.”

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For details about Asha Sharath’s Global Online Platform, email ashasharathgroup@yahoo.com or visit kairalikalakendram.com