#Interviews

Inspiration in a Hula Hoop : Artist Eshna Kutty On How She Does It

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Recently a video went viral of a young woman hula hooping in a saree and sneakers to the tunes of Sasuraal Genda Phool from Delhi-6. The internet, especially women who wear sarees, were all floored at the way Eshna Kutty pulled off stunts with ease in her nine yards. A hula hoop artist with a popular page on Instagram, she posts videos of herself pulling off unbelievable stunts. The #SareeFlow movement that Kutty kicked off had also recently led to several other women sharing pictures of themselves on social media, sporting relaxed poses in sarees. Here SheThePeople talks to Esha Kutty about her inspiration behind saree flow, her teaching motivation during the pandemic and her future plans ahead in the field of hooping.

When were you first introduced to this concept of flow art and movement therapy? Like what drew you in and made you continue in the field?

I came across hula hooping almost ten years ago, but here I mean hula hooping in a very different sense. Usually, you see it as someone spinning it on the waist, and that is something we all have seen at some point in our childhood. But I came across this video of a woman dancing with it, and my first reaction was obviously “what is this!” For me to discover flow art took a few more years. It was only 3-4 years after I had discovered hooping that I realised hooping itself is part of a much broader term called flow art.

You did psychology honours from Lady Shri Ram College. Given that we live in India, our family members are always so critical about career choices that don’t cater to societal expectations. How did your parents take it when you decided to leave academic studies and pursue hooping?

My parents are actually pretty chilled out people. My mum’s a journalist and my dad’s a filmmaker. They themselves don’t have the nine-to-five job, hence they have always been okay with it. And till now, even though I was hula hooping and teaching on the side, I have always been studying. Hooping was always a side hobby that paid me, but it was never my bread and butter. Although, for a brief period when I was living in Bombay, it was my sole source of income.

Inspiration in a Hula Hoop : Artist Eshna Kutty On How She Does It

But I think that because I have been simultaneously studying with it, there was always this assumption that I’ll do higher studies as well. But 2019 was the year I decided to take a year off and see whether doing this full time would even be a plausible option because in the past it wasn’t very fulfilling. I hardly got students and it hardly paid me much.

Tell about your experience of teaching during this pandemic, what has kept you and your students motivated.

I think what has kept me and even my students motivated is the fact that these classes haven’t primarily been about learning a new skill. Like that’s obviously there and I do teach a lot of tricks and technique-based stuff, but a lot of my stress has been on building a community for them and building a space where they can express themselves. So, a lot of activities that I have been making them do doesn’t even revolve around hooping, but more around just becoming social and comfortable with each other. I think that’s what got them motivated because it wasn’t like they were in it alone but in each batch, they had their own cheerleaders of other kids rooting for them.

Hooping in saree is such a fresh concept, something that you’ve been doing in your recent videos. But you know, saree is usually seen as a kind of restrictive clothing when compared to different western dresses. What inspired you for this interesting fusion?

Just that deep desire to see other Indian women try hula hooping. It is such an unknown thing anyway and I felt that adding something familiar like a saree would be pretty interesting. Earlier my idea wasn’t to make it specifically saree, I thought whatever Indian attire that feels familiar could work out. But personally, I love sarees and I’ve always worn sarees like this which is why I haven’t ever found them restrictive. Which is also why I just had to do it in it.

Actor Samyukta Hedge was recently harassed for hooping in public. Was your Instagram post of hooping in a sari somewhere also a way rebelling or say, expressing solidarity with her?

That wasn’t the focus initially. Saree flow was in my mind for many months, even before what happened with Samyukta. But I think both happened together coincidently. The saree flow reel that I put out the day after that incident happened was actually shot in March. It was a very old video and I just decided to put up a throwback thing. So rather than being a guiding force, I’d say that the news kind of just pushed me to post about something that I had already kind of thought about before.

What are your future plans in this field? You’ve recently posted another saree flow video, are we going to see more of it in your upcoming videos?

Honestly, the video that went viral was also my third video and not my first one. And in my head, I was going to put out a saree video every week for however long. I have 5-6 videos that are already shot and ready, ones that I had meant to upload later. But since this particular video went viral, there has just been so much talk going on of hooping in a saree that I don’t feel like putting out more reels and end up overkilling it. So, I’m probably not going to post saree flow for a while because I don’t want it to die out or people to get sick of it. I want it to have a nice life of its own.

With my saree flow videos. I had wanted to create some kind of a buzz where women would like to get out and feel more comfortable coming into this field. I think it met its purpose. I don’t really need to stick to it so much that people completely become disinterested. I honestly feel like I can instead just start a new trend.

Picture Credit: Eshna Kutty Instagram