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Memorable tribute to a Master
- G Ulaganathan
e-mail: ulag_nath@yahoo.com
Photos: Srivatsa Shandilya

December 31, 2020

The iconic Chowdaiah Memorial Auditorium opened its doors after nearly 8 months on December 30 to bring together almost all the dancers of Bangalore. The solemn occasion was to pay tribute to the irrepressible dance historian, critic Dr. Sunil Kothari who all through his life made it a mission to connect and communicate to the dancers all over the world. Bangalore, which he often used to say is his second home, has thus taken the lead in paying tributes to the man whose Globetrotter column in Narthaki.com was always looked forward to by the senior as well as the younger dancers of the city.

It was a fitting tribute, organised in a sombre mood, but in a grand manner by the World Dance Alliance, Bangalore chapter, led by guru Veena Murthy Vijay and her brilliant team including the officer-bearers and well known dancers Anuradha Vikranth, Shama Krishna and Madhulita Mohapatra.

Occupying the centrestage as he has always been was a large portrait of Dr. Kothari in a smiling pose and garlanded with jasmine flowers. On the sides were two large pillars as in a temple mantap and two bronze lamps. There was another larger lamp which had two rows of diyas tastefully decorated and every speaker, after addressing the gathering and showering flower petals, lit one of the diyas.


Lalitha Srinivasan pays tribute

It was a working day and also due to the prevailing situation, the hall was not full and there were strict restrictions in place. Yet, almost all the who's who of dance and music in Bangalore were present, including the veteran guru Lalitha Srinivasan who first brought Sunil Kothari to Bangalore in the early eighties. After a brief introductory speech by Anuradha Vikranth whose ensemble Drishti had honoured Sunil with the Lifetime Achievement Award a couple of years ago, Veena Murthy Vijay went down memory lane and recalled how he was instrumental in launching the World Dance Alliance Bangalore Chapter five years ago and called it "Sunil's Baby".

The senior most guru of Bangalore, Lalitha Srinivasan made a moving speech and said he was almost part of her family and was a regular at the annual dance festivals organised by her. "It is as if I have lost one of my close relatives," she said.


Ulaganathan pays tribute

Next, I recalled our 40 year-long association and narrated some unique traits of Sunil like his punctuality, passion and patience. I also suggested to WDA to institute a Sunil Kothari Memorial Award to be presented every year to the Most Promising Young Dancer of the year, to be selected by a jury.

Dr. Suma Sudheendra, the eminent veena vidwan, said he was not only a dance critic and scholar, but had a vast knowledge about music and said he offered valuable suggestions regularly when the Indian Music Experience Museum was set up in J P Nagar in Bangalore which has today become one of the favourite spots in the city. There were brief speeches by the lighting wizard Sai Venkatesh, Dr Raghavendra, in whose mini auditorium Sunil last year showed his film on Uday Shankar to a packed audience, and the ace photographer and organiser Srivatsa Sandilya.

Then everyone who was present went up the stage one by one to offer floral tributes. They included writer Satish Suri, eminent dancers Satyanarayana Raju, Hari and Chethana, Rangashree, Manu Srinivas, Suma Krishnamurthy, Padmini Sridhar, Mithun Shyam, Vandana Supriya and many young dancers and students. Those who could not be there physically sent their respects through video messages and they include Choodamani Nandagopal, Surupa Sen from Nrityagram, Vani Ganapati and Nirupama and Rajendra.

In the background, there was a large screen which repeatedly showed photographs from Sunil's life and visits to Bangalore. There was also an interesting video clip in which during a chat with Anurdha Vikranth, Sunil recollects his beginnings as a dancer learning under guru Kalyanasundaram Pillai, his meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru, Balasaraswati, Rukmini Devi Arundale, and many dance legends.



It was an evening which brought back fond memories of Dr. Sunil Kothari at the Chowdaiah Hall during his many visits and almost everyone felt that he was still there with his friendly smile and lively interactions.

G.Ulaganathan is a senior dance critic, a long time friend of Dr. Sunil Kothari and is based in Bangalore.


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