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A Story of Resilience: Why Assam's Pooja Ditched Bharatanatyam For Breaking

A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, Pooja Kumari took to breaking only after she turned 20.

3 min read

(This is the third part of The Quint's video series Gully Gully Mein Shor Hai. You can watch the first and the second parts here.)

"For me, breaking is more than an art form. It is a lifestyle. The way I talk, the way I am around people, and how I socialise these days – all the credit goes to breaking."
Pooja Kumari aka B-Girl Smiley, Dancer

A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, Pooja Kumari took to breaking only after she turned 20. The art from that she embraced out of sheer curiosity, has rechristened her as B-Girl Smiley and helped her cope with loss, fight, abuse, and resolve to work towards a better future of her family.

This is the story of Pooja's evolution into B-Girl Smiley. This is the story of a young 26-year-old artist – and how she went from Assam's Guwahati to stormed into Namma Bengaluru's hip-hop culture.


From Bharatanatayam to Breaking

"I was forced into Bharatanatyam. But it is not that I didn't like. The mudras and the moves of Bharatanatyam came too easily to me. I didn't have to put in too much effort," says Pooja, fidgeting with her toenails during a warm-up practice session.

Pooja Kumari, the second of the five sisters, was born in a middle-class family in Guwahati. Despite being a trained Indian classical dancer, Pooja found her calling in breaking as she witnessed young boys doing backflips and all sorts of stunts in Guwahati's Chittaranjan Park.

It ignited something in her. She soon tried to learn by watching YouTube videos. But it wasn't until her father's untimely demise and her decision to end an abusive and violent relationship that she took breaking in its all seriousness.

Breaking was her coping mechanism to overcome her sadness and loss.

Pooja Kumari aka B-Girl Smiley with her sisters in Guwahati, Assam.

(Photo: The Quint)

After I left my boyfriend, I felt really free and happy. The loneliness was bothering at times, but I was at peace with myself as I was completely occupied with breaking. This is when I decided to move to Bengaluru and take responsibility of my family and sister’s school education.
Pooja Kumari aka B-Girl Smiley, Dancer

B-Girl Smiley during a warm-up session in her studio in Bengaluru.

(Photo: The Quint)

"I laugh and smile a lot."

Four years after her college, she rechristened herself B-Girl Smiley and shifted her base to Bengaluru. Now, she runs a dance studio along with her friend in the city and also juggles between two jobs to help her family.


Pooja aka B-Girl Smiley was also among the top-8 B-Girls who participated at the Red Bull BC One Cypher India 2022. She was one of the semi-finalists in the competition.

B-Girl Smiley participating in the Red Bull BC One Cypher India 2022 competition.

(Photo: The Quint)

Everyone has goals. I have a few things on my mind. I obviously want to go places and win competitions. But, my ultimate goal is, even when I turn 50 or 60 years, I should still be able to break. I don’t like to quit things.
Pooja Kumari aka B-Girl Smiley, Dancer

Video Editor: Harpal Rawat

Cameraperson: Ananth Shreyas

Senior Editor: Tridip Mandal

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