How She Moves is an ode to a beloved teacher and her resistance


The short documentary traces the inspiring life of Indu Mitha, one of Pakistan’s last classical dance teachers.


“You are what you can do,” says 90-year-old Indu Mitha, a teacher from Bharatnatyam who has dedicated her life to teaching dance in Pakistan.

Directed and produced by Anya Raza and Ayesha Linnea, the short documentary follows the dynamic teacher as she prepares for her students’ final recital before retiring.

As one of the last classical dance teachers in the Islamic Republic, the film traces his work and contribution by exploring the ways in which Mitha’s dance and her activism came together.

Through the documentary, we get a glimpse into her unconventional life as a Bengali Christian, her move to Pakistan after the partition of India, and her rebellion, which comes together through her art.

By sharing his thoughts on Bharatnatyam, Mitha demonstrates a deep understanding of the form and how young students respond to it, which demonstrates his secular outlook. Freeing the dance from any religious foundation, she deploys it to tell secular stories: “I want to tell stories from Pakistan itself, inside Pakistan,” she says. “These are not political stories for me, they are very personal.

Throughout the film, there is an awareness of the position of dance in the Islamic State of Pakistan, where this art form is considered modest. Under the late military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq and his Islamization program, this art form was banned.

The film brings together various concerns ranging from Mitha’s heritage and concerns of gender and class to the space of expression offered by dance. However, the narrative seems a bit disjointed in places. We also wish we had seen more of Mitha’s feminism, activism and struggle over the years as an artist; we have precious glimpses of his long rebellion against the state.

Raza and Linnea’s documentary is a crucial archive that highlights Mitha’s fight to keep the arts alive through thick and thin. The directors roll out a countdown to the days leading up to the final show and there’s a beautifully edited streak towards the end where the teacher and her teachings become one. As Mitha says in the film, “I think and make people think, and that’s where the revolution begins.

The film has screened at several festivals and won the Award for Excellence in Directing Short Documentaries at the 43rd Asian American Film Festival.

How She Moves is screened at the Beyond Borders Feminist Film Festival.

About Monty S. Maynard

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