Tribute to G Ulaganathan - senior editor and journalist
- Priyamvadha Murali
July 11, 2022
The revered critic G Ulaganathan's contribution to dance reviews and his critical observations of a dancer were always marked with constructive comments. His subtle and sensitive feedback always brought out a "thinking dancer" to harness his/her energies and strengths towards a possible improvisation in techniques in their upcoming performances.
His love for his hometown Thanjavur was evident with pictures and posts he shared on social media. Every time he visited Thanjavur, he would ensure he visited Melattur, the home of the Bhagavata Mela tradition and he would drop by to meet his dear friend Melattur S Natarajan. It was during one of those sessions over a cup of hot filter coffee on a rainy evening, he happened to see the children of the village coming from varied socio-economic backgrounds being groomed in Bharatanatyam by Guru S Natarajan. These were the disciples from Bhagavata Mela Vidyalaya, the brain child of this legendary guru who envisioned that every child coming from this culturally rich village should experience the divinity and bliss of the art form he practiced and taught them all for free.
Young dancer with Ulaganathan & Guru S Natarajan
Impressed by these kids' passion, dedication and the zeal to learn, Ulaganathan promised to see them on stage and passed on his valuable comments on improvisations, a positive quality he possessed. He also promised to procure them dance costumes from the dance fraternity for the realization of their dream—to be dancing on the magnificent arena in Melattur. This novel idea was a resourceful input at that moment when Vidyalaya was just trying to make a humble beginning. A man of commitment that he was, he made no noise about either the travel or his health limitations to be part of the much anticipated event.
"It was me who wanted to see the kids perform. I will be present in Thanjavur and don't worry about formalities," he said. Such was his simplicity and magnanimity. His first critical review of the performance in Narthaki dance portal on June 29, 2016 left an indelible mark on these young dancers.
"The major highlight of the event this year was the dance debut of nine children from the village of Melattur and surrounding hamlets, all students of Melattur S Natarajan. Their renderings of few select items were a great revelation that talent lies even in small towns and villages and they need to be nurtured. Natarajan needs full credit for discovering them..." These words of encouragement and acknowledgement set the trend for Vidyalaya gaining notable platforms to showcase the latent talent in the rural community.
He had an impeccable quality of keeping in constant touch with such budding talents and was keen to be updated about their progress. He continued to support the efforts of Vidyalaya even after the passing away of Guru S Natarajan. He was overwhelmed with the year long tribute the disciples paid for their guru as they completed the 16 day online Natya Sangeetha Aradhana in October 2021 through the dedicated YouTube channel 'Bhagavata Mela Vidyalaya.'
Ulaganathan with Guru S Natarajan and young dancers
"I am so happy that they have taken it up on them this far to pursue their art. Natarajan would be proud of his disciples. Am currently in Thanjavur, will go to Bangalore and see their video on the big screen with better network," he said over a phone call to this writer who now manages the Bhagavata Mela Vidyalaya. He also wished to come and meet my ailing mother once he got back to Bangalore. Unfortunately, my mother passed away soon and before I realized, Ulaganathan has left us too.
His sudden demise has shocked the entire art fraternity. Bhagavata Mela Vidyalaya stands indebted to his invaluable support. Today, from the nine dancers he spotted, Vidyalaya's strength is 65 and growing. He was not alive to see the fruit of their dedication being awarded recently. I take this humble opportunity to convey that these dancers apart from being featured on global stage, won recognition from local community and government bodies with due accreditation.
To sum up in Ulaganathan's own words, "Bhagavata Mela Vidyalaya is a heart warming message to the dance community and the art lovers." His encouraging words will help Vidyalaya propel in its mission forever.
(G Ulaganathan passed away on June 23, 2022 after a massive cardiac arrest.)
Bangalore based Priyamvadha Murali, daughter/disciple of Melattur S Natarajan, is a senior disciple of Chitra Visweswaran, Chennai.
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