Renowned Indian dancer and choreographer Amala Shankar, who celebrated her 101st birthday last month, passed away here on Friday morning, her family said. The danseuse, who had been suffering from age-related ailments, died of cardiac arrest in her sleep.
“My mother had always wanted to leave the world in a quiet manner, without warranting much attention. She left in peace this morning. But, I feel her presence with me,” the artiste’s dancer daughter, Mamata Shankar, said.
The wife of legendary dancer-choreographer Uday Shankar and sister-in-law of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, Amala Shankar was awarded the Banga Bibhusan by the West Bengal government in 2011 for her contribution in the field of arts.
In a condolence message, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said her death has caused an irreparable void in the world of dance.
Minister of State for Cultural Affairs, Indranil Sen, said her last rites were performed with full state honours at Keoratala here, in the presence of close family and friends.
Born in Bangladesh on June 27, 1919, Amala Shankar’s tryst with dance began at a very young age, following a meeting with Uday Shankar, who she later married. She went on to play central roles in several productions by her husband’s dance troupe.
Her first ever performance was in Belgium in a production titled, Kaliya Daman, where she essayed the role of ‘Kaliya’ — the mythological serpent with multiple hoods.
A recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Tagore Ratna award, Amala Shankar was trained in multiple dance forms, including Manipuri, Kathakali, and Bharatnatyam.
Calling her death the end of an era, Amala Shankar’s Mumbai-based granddaughter, Sreenanda Shankar, also a dancer, took to social media to express disappointment over her inability to travel to Kolkata.
“Today my ‘Thamma’ (grandmother) left us at the age of 101. We just celebrated her birthday last month. Feeling so restless that there is no flight from Mumbai to Kolkata. Heartbroken, May her soul Rest in peace,” she wrote on Facebook.
“This is the end of an era. Love you ‘Thamma’ Thank you for everything. #AmalaShankar, she added.
Amala Shankar had also acted in the film Kalpana (1948), which was directed by her husband, and the restored print of the movie was screened at the Cannes Classic Section in 2012.
She was said to have been active even in her late 90s.
Recalling fond memories of the danseuse, director and actor Aparna Sen said, “She was so active even a few years back, and had even enquired about my next film at a function.
Thespian Soumitra Chatterjee said her demise had brought to an end an era in India’s cultural history.