In remembrance of Dr. Sunil Kothari
- Deepsikha Chatterjee & Uttara Asha Coorlawala
December 30, 2020
Indo American Arts Council mourns the passing of Indian dance lover and scholar Padma Shri Dr. Sunil Kothari on December 27, 2020. He had contracted COVID earlier, and after treatment was released last week, only to be readmitted soon. He succumbed to a heart attack on the morning of 27th December 2020. Born in 1933, he was 88 years old. He was a Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner along with many other accolades.
Dr. Kothari was best known for his dance scholarship, starting with Bharata Natyam: Indian Classical Dance Art published under the Marg Publication in 1978. It was followed by several other dance books on Odissi, Rasa, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Sattriya, New Directions in Dance, Rukmini Devi, Chhau and more. His nourishing mentorship and kindness was remembered by all in the Indian dance world - from old to young. He himself was young at heart, always active in dance attendance and erudition. His latest draft of an essay titled, 'In Praise of Kapila Vatsyayan' was emailed to the editor of the commemoration volume to her on October 29, 2020! In New York, in 2003 he introduced Uday Shankar's film Kalpana at the Lincoln Center, and very recently in 2019 he lectured at the New York Public Library on Mrinalini Sarabhai's work on film.
Even as he started studying Chartered Accountancy, he realized his passion and veered into dance scholarship under the mentorship of Mohan Khokar at M.S. University, Baroda, and eventually earned a PhD. Later on, he taught at Viswabharati University in Kolkata, and was part of the initial academicians at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU.
- Deepsikha Chatterjee, IAAC Dance Director
Senior Curator IAAC and Professor, Uttara Asha Coorlawala remembers him fondly
Every Indian dance conference I ever went to--he was there and he always looked out for my well being. He was like that with many of the dancers he knew. And he knew every dancer from Nureyev and Akram Khan to the latest arangetram dancer! It is very hard to single out any single memory or accomplishment of his. His writings were so profuse, that even he lost track of them. He was writing his autobiography in Gujarati. He spoke at a couple of IAAC's Erasing Borders events. He took a lot of trouble to review our last virtual festival on Narthaki. He encouraged our curating efforts and advised us in the early stages. Dance will not be the same without him.
Dr. Sunil Kothari striking a dance pose with Uttara Asha Coorlawala in 1973.
Photo Courtesy: Uttara Asha Coorlawala
Erasing Borders Dance Festival remains indebted to him for his many visits and reviews of the festival, especially of our September 2020 festival, archived on the Narthaki website. Festival Director Deepsikha Chatterjee remembers how only in early 2020, she exchanged emails with Dr. Kothari and he helped her get in touch with the Kalakshetra Archives for a paper of hers.
His was a life well lived, and in his passing he leaves many warm memories.
May Dr. Sunil Kothari be granted eternal peace! Om Shanti
Dr. Sunil Kothari with Suman Gollamudi, Chief Marketing Officer and PR, Indo American Arts Council & New York Indian Film Festival, 2019
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