Click here for all links

Social media links


Rukmini Devi was a fierce campaigner for animal rights and it is to her that we owe that all important legislation, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
In 1952, she became the first woman in India to be nominated to the Upper House of Parliament and used the platform to campaign for animal welfare. In 1953 she used The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Bill in Parliament.
(‘Rukmini Arundale: Dancer with a surprise second act’ by Carol Lobo, Live History India, Aug 3, 2021)

It is well-known that Venkitakrishna Bhagavatar introduced the sruti box in Kathakali music and insisted that his co-singers too stick to sruti. Vocalists prior to him were not so keen on following a particular sruti while singing over many nights for many different characters.
(‘The man who redefined Kathakali’s vocal music’ by V. Kaladharan, The Hindu Friday review, Sept 30, 2021)

Admission of a Muslim boy into the premier institution of classical performing arts that too with the timely help from a Christian - C P Antony, a social worker from Ottupara who had executed the bond for Rs 2000, as required by the formalities - marked the advent of secularism in Kalamandalam. But eight years of rigorous disciplining under the doyens Neelakantan Nambissan and N K Vasudevan Panicker produced one of the most outstanding Kathakali playback singers of our times, Kalamandalam Hyderali.
('Kalamandalam Hyderali: An ingenious musician' by G S Paul, India Art Review, Sept 5, 2021)

Manjuthara and Orthaal Visamayam, the books authoured by Kalamandalam Hyderali, give a vibrant picture of his life and its vicissitudes, especially being the only non-Hindu to learn an art form that banks on stories excerpted from Hindu puranas and scriptures. But Kathakali aficionados thronged the venues where he performed. They recall how those in control of an ancient temple in Haripad had actually pulled down a part of the compound wall and extended the platform for Hyderali to sing without entering the precincts of the temple.
('Kalamandalam Hyderali: An ingenious musician' by G S Paul, India Art Review, Sept 5, 2021)

One of Koodiyattam maestro Madhava Chakyar's famed performances was the death of Bali, the monkey king of Kishkindha, in the play 'Balivadham'. He used to emulate the last breaths of a dying being exactly, much to the awe of the spectators. As he got older, doctors warned him not to perform the act in such a realistic manner, as they were afraid that it'd actually affect his lungs. Chakyar had once told me that he had mastered this act by observing his own mother's last moments.
('Ammannur Madhava Chakyar: The legend who lived and breathed Koodiyattam - Part 2' by Renu Ramanath, India Art Review, 1 Aug 2021)

Koppilil Radhakrishnan (Dr K Radhakrishnan, the former Director of ISRO) was stunned when he suddenly came face to face with a huge portrait of Madhava Chakyar at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris! He felt proud to belong to the same town as the thespian.
('Ammannur Madhava Chakyar: The legend who lived and breathed Koodiyattam - Part 2' by Renu Ramanath, India Art Review, 1 Aug 2021)

The information that Silapathikaram provides about dance and theatre is so much that it is sometimes referred to as the Natyashastra of South India. There is a detailed description of the dance of the character Madhavi in the chapter of Arangetrukathai. The abilities of the accompanists for the dancer on percussion (mridangam/maddalam) and string instruments (veena/yaazh) and the Natyacharya (Guru and conductor of the dance) are also described in detail. Additionally, the stage, curtains and props used are also mentioned in detail as if the author himself was present at the scene.
('The Occult Origins of Mohiniyattam- Part 5' by Nirmala Paniker, India Art Review, July 21, 2021)

Silapathikaram gives a detailed description of hand gestures too. The dancer uses various gestures like 'Pindi' (single hand / un-joined hands / asamyuta hasta), 'Pinayal' (joined hands/double-hands / samyutahastas), Elirkai (sobhakai / hand gesture for beauty / Nritta Hasta), Tolirkai (communicative / abhinaya kai / abhayahasta which is meaningful hand gestures for acting), as the occasion demands. But, at the same time, care is taken not to mix up the hand gestures of various forms of dance and acting. So when Madhavi danced using single hand gestures (Asamyuta hand gestures), double hand gestures (Samyuta hand gestures), and hand gestures of pure dance (nritta hastas/hand gestures used while doing the pure dance) each of them attained their distinct forms.
('The Occult Origins of Mohiniyattam- Part 5' by Nirmala Paniker, India Art Review, July 21, 2021)

Option for different academic disciplines other than dance was an alibi. The same passion compelled Dr.Kanak Rele to not join the MBBS course even after the fee was paid. Then, Industrial Law followed by International Law in Manchester University, the UK with specialization in Civil Aviation, back home offer of a lucrative job in Air India during its incipient stages, that was rejected by her against the wishes of her parents - all could be imputed to her passion to become a professional dancer.
('Avant-garde danseuse Guru Dr Kanak Rele turns 84' by G S Paul, India Art Review, June 11, 2021)

In courts, palaces, bungalows and the homes of the rich and the privileged, musicians would always play their instruments while standing. In public performances, and in more austere settings, they sat down on the floor to perform. The muhafiz (unarmed guard) stood to one side and kept an eye on everyone present during the performance. Mamas (experienced maidservant) sat in a corner of the dais, sometimes preparing paan (betel nut) and beeri (Indian cigarettes).  Mashalchis (lamp bearers) stood at the back.
('The Nautch' by Ally Adnan, The Friday Times, Aug 1, 2014)

'Mohiniyattathinte Amma', the 50-minute biopic directed by the renowned film maker Vinod Mankara and produced by Smitha Rajan, the granddaughter of Kalayanikutty Amma, is an authentic documentation of the doyenne's life and contributions.
('Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma: The only matriarch of Mohiniyattam' by GS Paul, India Art Review, May 12, 2021)

In the four century-old history of Kathakali, October 28, 1995 is momentous. A play was presented in an Indian language other than Malayalam for the first time. Arunachala Kavi's magnum opus Rama Natakam, choreographed by the maestro Kalamandalam M.P.S. Namboodiri, was staged in Tamil that day.
('How a Tamil opera was adapted to Kathakali' by GS Paul, The Hindu Friday Review, June 4, 2021)

In a village with its own kaliyogam (Kathakali troupe), one person attended almost all the performances. He keenly observed the artist in the central role but turned down his face within seconds. Perturbed by this and suspecting that his facial expressions may not have adequately explored the art's nuances, the actor met that "aficionado". "My passion is counting the number of decorations in the headgear, but by the time I hardly count a few, you are turning your head; very disappointing," was the answer the artist got.
('The quaint connoisseurs' by KK Gopalakrishnan, The Hindu, April 18, 2021)

Until a few decades ago, connoisseurs would invite famous artists to perform, and knowing about the venue and date, others would come on their own to make an ensemble. By sunset, with the available artists, the playlist for the night and each role is prepared and displayed in the green room. More often than not, the aesthetes would discuss and argue about selecting the repertoire and assigning roles when more luminaries arrive to perform. Once, during such a dispute, the organisers sought the suggestions of a Namboodiri who meticulously attended the performances, sitting right in front of the stage and next to the traditional lamp, kalivilakku, till the end. He nonchalantly replied, "No idea, I am there to sniff the wicks of the lamp while putting them out after the performance."
('The quaint connoisseurs' by KK Gopalakrishnan, The Hindu, April 18, 2021)

In 1993, a landmark contemporary sculpture 'Cosmic Dancer' created by American sculptor Arthur Woods and inspired by the Nataraja was installed in the Mir Space Station.
(Decoding the Nataraja Bronzes: A Cosmic Dance through centuries' by Sharada Srinivasan, Live History India, March 7, 2021)

In 1968, Santha Bhaskar, artistic director and chief choreographer at Bhaskar's Art Academy in Singapore, was the Indian dancer featured in a series of stamps issued by Singapore Post Office to reflect Singapore's multiracial and multicultural society.

During a Chakyarkoothu performance, the Chakyar happened to narrate the story of a cat-eyed king. The ruler of the province was also cat-eyed and taking it as a jibe, he ordered that the Chakyar be arrested. Early next morning, the king, holding his "ready-to-chop" sword, asked, "What do you feel now?" The Chakyar knew death was close, but said politely, "Now I am like a mouse in front of a cat." The king burst into laughter and honoured him for his humour even when facing death. Who said humour won't solve problems?
('The art of the laugh lines' by KK Gopalakrishnan, The Hindu Sunday Magazine, March 7, 2021)

On a train journey, a music lover asked musician Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, "Sir, are you Ariyakudi?" He nodded "no" with his hallmark smile. After a while, the bemused aficionado asked, "Then, are you Semmankudi?" Chembai threw back, "I am simply Chembai, no kudi," punning on the word kudi which in Tamil and Malayalam means drinking alcohol.
('The art of the laugh lines' by KK Gopalakrishnan, The Hindu Sunday Magazine, March 7, 2021)

A dancing girl named Ad Bai often appeared in parties in see-through sheer dresses without wearing any clothes underneath, but her body skilfully painted.
('The 'Tawaifs' of Shahjahanabad' by Debasish Das, Live History India, March 11, 2020)

During their heyday, it was inevitable that the sharp and witty 'tawaifs' won the hearts of princes and emperors. Epic love stories, some with possible fictional overtones, have been woven around Mughal emperors who fell for these commoners.
When Nadir Shah occupied the palace-fortress in 1739, he was so enamoured with the beautiful dancing girl Noor Bai that he offered to take her back with him to Persia and offered her half his fortune but she declined devastated by the bloodbath unleashed by the barbaric Persian.
('The 'Tawaifs' of Shahjahanabad' by Debasish Das, Live History India, March 11, 2020)

A showstopper, old-timers say, Astad Deboo once arrived on stage in an Ambassador car to the sound of sirens to perform "Lakdi Ka Ravan".
('Astad Deboo: The man who imbued modern dance with narrative form of treatment' by Anuj Kumar, The Hindu Friday Review, Dec 11, 2020)

Sudharani Raghupathy recalls an incident. "In 1958, I was the first dancer chosen from a non-hereditary dance community for a government cultural scholarship. The panel had E. Krishna Iyer, Justice T. L. Venkatarama Iyer and Rukmini Devi. A petition was filed against me and I had to reappear before a committee in Delhi. I was selected again, purely on merit," she says.
('The rhythm of two worlds' by Hema Iyer Ramani, The Hindu Friday Review, Jan 8, 2021)

In 1964, an All-India Classical Dance Festival was hosted in Hyderabad, and Odissi was featured in it for the first time after being conferred the 'classical' status. It was here that the late Ramani Ranjan Jena, disciple of Guru Kelucharan, who would later become a well known New Delhi based guru, performed. It was the first solo presentation by a male Odissi dancer on a national platform.
('The men in Odissi' by Shyamhari Chakra, The Hindu Friday Review, Nov 13, 2020)

The famous javali 'smara sundaranguni' in Paras composed by Dharmapuri Subbarayar was in praise of Dhanammal.
('The Consummate Musicianship of a Dancer' by Savitha Narasimhan, Apsaras Arts blog)

Click here for all links
Did 'U' Know | Home | About | Address Bank | News | Info Centre | Featured Columns