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Dancing India@75!

August 31, 2022

So, dance matters? Yes, even in chess. Kavita Ramu is an ace talent of Tamilnadu. First, a fine dancer from the truly cultured belt that's Madurai (which part of TN is not cultured? Tanjore is, Chidambaram is, even far off Kanyakumari is; add Trichy) and then an ace IAS, currently the boss of Pudukkottai, as its Collector. A product of K. J. Sarasa, the main teaching star of the Vazhuvoor bani as initiated by the veritable Ramaiah Pillai, Sarasamma was the mainstay of his ghar-ana. She taught so many film stars too, like Kamal Hassan.

Artistic IAS officer Kavitha Ramu
Artistic IAS officer Kavitha Ramu

Kavitha created recently, the human chess or Shatranj for the opening ceremony of FIDE that TN hosted. To use traditional theatre and dance + natya forms (as the activist guru Dhananjayan insists all call it) was a stroke of brilliant aesthetics, which has also been thought of before but never done in this version. Squares of black and white of a chess board, gave it depth and Aiyanar horses or grand King and Queen as check mate, brought it alive. The story of Shiva no one could defeat in a chess duel also added a mythological angle to the superb production. Trust an artiste of Kavitha Ramu's calibre to make even a tedious chess game look extra ordinary. Her take: "The idea for the video stems from the fact that I am a performing artiste. Performing arts have ample scope for a visual treat and make the message more impactful. And since I am a dancer with over 25 years of experience as a performer, I thought this dance chess theme was the best possible way of presentation." Atta girl and she proved it viral! Yes, rarely dance goes viral these days but nearly every group, everyone I know from college friends' group (that's like folks known from 45 years ago!) to IAS/IPS groups, to media, to dance ones - all kept forwarding this unique visual delight. Kavitha Ramu proved where there's art, there's always a way, albeit an artistic way out. She deserves an honour, an award for putting dance and Tamilnadu traditions on world map. Well, an ex MD of TN tourism dept TTDC (when that Tsunami came, she was the officer in-charge and how she provided leadership to all staff and properties by personally supervising all) she has a proven track record. She left a mark even in education field and women's welfare. Where next?

The united colours of India
The united colours of India

Next to this came the national day, yes 15 August and this year the added attraction of turning 75. OMG! 75 is platinum jubilee. To celebrate it, the whole country arose this year through har ghar tiranga and many Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsavs. It was nice to see on our own cell phones how even DPs changed and many posted themselves with the Indian flag atop their home or dancers celebrating through events and festivals.

Ranjana Gauhar has mounted her Saare Jahan se Acha utsav through her society Utsav for almost 2 decades now. She was out in full swing with Aman Nath to do the honours. Abdul Khalid, that runaway boy from Gorakhpur I wrote about long ago, presented his tiny tots in colourful costumes. IGNCA had many events almost one every other day and the NSD too mounted many theatre connected ones. All over India there were special focus festivals, in Madras by ABHAI on patriotic themes and in Bombay at NCPA, a modern palette.

Ranjana Gauhar
Ranjana Gauhar
Abdul Khalid's students
Tiny tots of dancing India, Abdul Khalid's students

Rumbles were felt far away in Canada where from prince of Kathak, Anuj Mishra gushingly wrote how a fellow dancer from India settled there helped organize his 7 city tour. That's the way abroad. Indians helping artistes from India. Main way. This way even the learning continues. Indian dancers going there can teach new items with music too. Daaallluurr rate! Why not because then locals settled there use for various shows, teaching even tom-tomming latest wares from India. Win-win for both. Govt doesn't or can't do much, unless enlightened. Canada has much support systems for Indian diaspora and arts. It is the best country to be in for many, if one can survive harsh winters.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind? These famous lines by Shelley in Ode to the Winds is deep and my favorite from school days and reinstates hope. India lives on, nay, it dances on!

Ashish Mohan Khokar
Author of 45 books, numerous articles, 85 UGC dance modules, 40 years of writing dance and serving the arts as administrator and archivist, Ashish Khokar loves India that is Bharat!

Nice feature , especially I liked the creative mind on dance with chess ...  wonderful to know about Kavitha Ramu.
- Prashanth Gopal Shastry (Aug 31, 2022)

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