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Protima Gauri Bedi was a dancer, socialite and rebel from childhood. Her father, Laxmichand Gupta, was a trader from Haryana who had married a Bengali, Reba, and had to leave his family because of their opposition to the match. She was born in Delhi, but in 1953 the family moved to Goa, then Bombay where she joined St Xavier’s College. She began modelling in the 1960s, left home and led an independent life. She was already seeing Kabir Bedi, and she now lived with him, opened Mumbai’s first disco, Hideout, and acquired a reputation as a party animal. She famously streaked on Juhu Beach in 1974. At 26, she wandered into a theatre and saw an Odissi performance, and realised at once this was what she wanted to do. Discarding her cigarettes, her torn jeans, streaked hair and hippie paraphernalia, she went to Kelucharan Mahapatra and became his disciple.

She toured the world, settling at first in Switzerland. She was not a born dancer, and felt she had to give something else to her best-loved art. Thus was born the idea of Nrityagram. She bought land outside Bangalore, and built the place almost with her bare hands. She did not teach; her guru Mahapatra taught Odissi, Kalanidhi Narayan taught abhinaya, while Kumudini Lakhia taught Kathak. Then, when Nrityagram was up and running, she quit. She had intended to nurse her son Siddharth who was schizophrenic, but Siddharth took his own life. Her daughter Pooja became a successful film actor. Pratima died in a landslide when on pilgrimage in the Himalayas.
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