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Govinda Rai: The dance of life

Growing up in Dharan, Govinda Rai’s childhood was spent learning dance and acting. He loved both, but acting took precedence. Yet fate had other plans for him. After appearing in a few stage plays as a child actor, Biwash Aakash being his debut in 2043, he ended up heading the choreography department for Samarpan Natya Samaaj, and that’s where he realised his passion for dance. Today Rai is one of the most sought after choreographers in the Nepali film industry. Since debuting with dance direction in the video film Jwalamukhi and celluloid feature Chalachitra, he has worked in over 200 films. Rai has bagged both the Nepal Film Technicians’ Association (NEFTA) Awards and Digital Film Award for two consecutive years. The multi-talented Rai has also directed the 2070 feature film Nagbeli. Excerpts from a conversation with Rai:

govinda-raiWhat does your art mean to you?

Art is the gift of nature. There is art in the way the wind blows, in the way the river flows. It is something that is already there and occurs on its own. To take inspiration from nature and interpret and express it through a skill like dancing or acting is a blessing bestowed upon us by God. Some choose to become poets, some athletes, and some singers. Similarly, I became an artist.

Your best work…

Some of the films I am been best known for are Naina Resham (Song “Dhalkyo Dhalkyo”) and Gorkha Paltan (“Jaula Relai Ma”). But I am still not satisfied with my work despite all the praise and accolades. I still feel like a restless beginner. The more work I get done, the more I want to learn. In the past, I used to compete with my seniors, now I am competing with the new generation. I still feel incomplete and am always striving to better myself.

What are the qualities of a good dancer?

One doesn’t become a good dancer by simply dancing. They need to value the talent, hone and respect it. Anyone can dance – from the streets to the stage – but it’s their ability to combine flexibility, expression and rhythm to be able to sync with the music that allows a good dancer to stand out. How much of personal feel you add to your moves is equally important.

What do you think about choreography in the Nepali movie industry?

I started my journey in choreography by looking up to my seniors. I faced the very struggle that they did in the beginning. Looking back, I think we have come a long way. In spite of that, we are still lagging behind in terms of technology. It’s like the race is never going to be over because choreography is one of those dynamic fields where new techniques are constantly introduced. The more you teach, the more you need to learn. Even the definition of choreography has changed over the years. Dance may mean something to me whereas it could mean something completely different to another. The horizon has expanded. However, having said that, I feel liveliness is lacking in today’s choreography. It seems as though more than the artist, the camera is making more moves.

If you weren’t an artist, you would be…

I would be an ordinary school teacher. I love teaching school children, especially somewhere in a remote area.