Mallika Sarabhai Shah (born 9 May 1954) is an activist and Indian classical dancer from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Daughter of a classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and space scientist Vikram Sarabhai, Mallika is an accomplished Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer and performer who has specialized in using the arts for social change and transformation.
She started to learn dancing when she was young, and started her film career in parallel cinema, when she was 15. Mallika played the role of Draupadi in the Peter Brook’s play The Mahabharata. Mallika has won many accolades during her long career, the Golden Star Award being one of them, which she won for the Best Dance Soloist, Theatre De Champs Elysees, Paris 1977. As well as a dancer, Sarabhai is a social activist. She manages the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts located at Ahmedabad, a center for the arts and for the use of arts as a language for behavior change.
In 1989 she performed hard-hitting solo theatrical works, Shakti: The Power of Women. Her performance Sita’s Daughters has toured the world and been performed over 500 times in three languages. After that, she directed and acted in numerous productions reflecting current issues and awareness among people. Amongst them are An Idea Named Meera; In Search of the Goddess and SvaKranti: The Revolution Within.
Mallika Sarabhai also wrote the script for the play ‘Unsuni’ based on Harsh Mander’s book ‘Unheard Voices’ to raise awareness amongst children in elite shchols and colleges to the real issues facing India’s marginalized. The play went around 120 schools and colleges. Arvind Gaur later directed it as a play, with the same name. Darpana Academy has launched the people awareness movement through its production Unsuni which travels all over India.
In 2009 Mallika Sarabhai acted in an Indian adaptation Bertolt Brecht’s of The Good Person of Szechwan (Ahmedabadki Aurat Bhali-Ramkali) directed by Arvind Gaur in 34th Vikram Sarabhai International Art Festival.
In the year 2012, Mallika co-directed ‘Women with Broken Wings,’ an international production with film maker Yadavan Chandran and Swiss pianist Elizabeth Sombart, an ode to the millions of women who have been the victims of violence. In 2014 she recreated, with Yadavan Chandran, Kadak Badshaahi, a multi media production on the 603-year-old history of the city of Ahmedabad. The performance ran for an unprecedented 33 full nights in Darpana’s venue, Natarani.