SERGEI : unplugged cinema by Shailendra Singh 2020
At just 19 years old, Sergei Polunin became the youngest ever Principal for the London Royal Ballet. He was called ‘the greatest dancer of his generation’ (The Economist) and ‘the greatest dancer in the world’ (The Guardian). At age 21, in a move that shocked the ballet world, he quit. His rampant partying, bewildering comments to the press and unprofessional behavior earned him a new title – ‘the bad boy of ballet’. Now, eight years later, at a chance encounter in Amsterdam, Sergei Polunin accepts the invitation of India’s Entertainment and Sports Maverick, Shailendra Singh, to travel around India. Over the course of seven days, they travel to some of the holiest places of the world, along the sacred banks of the Ganges River. Without hesitation, Sergei immerses himself in mystical experiences and takes time out to narrate deep reflections of his life. Sergei’s journey in the art world has been well-documented, but never before has he been as candid and genuine about his inner most feelings and momentary mind space. In Varanasi, they merge with the thousands that gather for the Ganga Aarti (nightly prayers to the Mother River) and visit the Maasan Ghat (cremation riverfront) where families burn the bodies of their deceased love ones, in hopes of breaking the cycle of death and birth. Sitting in a boat, in the middle of the divine river, he discusses how, when he was born, his mother thought he was from India and how the path of his life veered from the light, towards to the darkness. . . and back again. In Jaipur, he watches a traditional Sufi dancer, wanders through the ‘Palace of Mirrors’ and discusses the earliest days of his dancing – when he didn’t even realize that ballet was ‘art’. In Rishikesh, he chats with Shailendra along the same Ganges River and discusses his karma and feelings on humanity. He meets the local children and offers flowers and candles into the sparkling blue rapids before taking a holy, sin-cleansing bath in its frigid water. Throughout the journey, Sergei feels a slowly unfolding, but powerful attraction to Lord Shiva. In the course of getting to know him better, understanding the cycles of destruction and rebuilding that Sergei manifested in his own life, Shailendra tells him, ‘for me, you are an incarnation of Shiva.’ The unification of creative energies between him and Shailendra on their journey, is an adventure that leaves its mark on Sergei. It not only changes him, but holds the potential to change us all.