Saturday, March 28, 2015


Darpana was established as a dance academy by Mrinalini and Vikram Sarabhai in 1949. For nearly two decades it taught classical dance. With Mrinalini as the lead dancer, and ChatunniPanicker as her partner, the Darpana dance company toured across the world. A few years later the great Kuchipudi guru, c R Acharyelu joined the faculty.

In the 60s Darpana added departemnts of Gujarati theatre and puppetry under the inspired direction of KailashPandya, Damini Mehta and Meher Contractor. These departments taught and had performing groups that established names for themselves.  Gujarati theatre was revived as was the folk form of Bhavai, and many other declining forms from across the country. The Andhra shadow puppets found a new lease of life.

By the 70s thousands of students were studying BharataNatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, vocal and instrumental Carnatic music, puppetry, Bhavai and modern theatre. Many of the faculty members got involved in using the arts to tackle every day issues and prejudices. And Darpana grew.

In 1977 Mallika Sarabhai took over as Honorary Directory. In 1980 Darpana for Development was established to focus attention on creating behavior change communication through the arts with KailashPandya and Mallika taking the lead. Government departments, Ministries and other non governmental agencies began partnering  D for D to educate the public in issues of health, education and empowering women. Over the next two decades D for D became the fastest growing segment of Darpana, creating powerful communication that reached hearts and minds.

By 1999 when Darpana turned 50, all the Founder’s dreams had been fulfilled and over 20000 students had streamed through the institution. In a major reorganization, the teaching of the arts were put on a back burner and new collaborations, technological innovations and the use of the arts for social change took center stage. In 2001 YadavanChandran started Darpana Communications to explore the use of television and film for social change. Over the next decade the department produced and broadcast more than 2000 hours of programming, much of it path breaking in its innovative use of audience participation and in using popular genres to introduce taboo subjects. Recently Darpana for Development and Darpana Communications were merged to become Darpana for Change. In 2014 Revanta Sarabhai took charge of the teaching wing, the Conservatory, to revitalize it. This department now runs short and long term courses in classical dance and music, theatre, martial arts and a variety of other forms.