Natyashastra Award to Yamini Krishnamurthy
- Ashish Mohan Khokar

March 11, 2014

Does Saraswati incarnate need any more awards or titles? Especially when she has been blessed with the grace of Laskhmi and Durga too?

Such were feelings and thoughts that came to mind when one saw the living legend Yamini Krishnamurthy being felicitated by Bangalore dancer-activist Vyjayanthi Kashi, the Kuchipudi talent and teacher of Bangalore. She undertook this mission appropriately on International Women's Day, March 8th at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Khincha Hall, sponsored by the ICCR and Ministry of Culture’s grant.

Yamini Krishnamurthy gets Natyashastra award

Suvarna Latha

Kothapalli Padma

Yamini Krishnamurthy

The day began with the most engaging talk by a few worthies on stage, of whom Dr. Anuradha Jonnalagada was most coherent and comprehensive. An academician of note, especially of her Andhra heritage and history, which she also teaches at Hyderabad's University, she covered a neglected section of Early Women Dancers of Kuchipudi and very effectively wove tales on trials and travails of some dancers who never achieved national recognition or stature. Suvarna Latha and Kothapalli Padma took us down memory lane. That most Bangalore dancing boys and girls did not make time to attend the morning session showed their total apathy to dance education and heritage. Most of them run dance teaching factories and are far too busy being on FB than showing their faces at important learning platforms. It is a shame that all want to be seen in silks and stripes but care two hoots for history or their gurus, especially iconic names like Yamini, who come once in centuries. That a Brazilian theatre couple Dr. Ricardo and Priscilla Gnomes changed their departure by a day to Kochi, just to attend this important gathering of mind and matter, showed how deep and focused foreigners are when they pursue an art form. 

Yamini Krishnamurthy is a complete artiste. That means she knows sangeetam (music), sahitya (literature) and shastras (scriptural texts). Most dancers today know neither! The film shown on her, a tad too long, jumpy and unedited, was an eye opener for those who have never seen her dance on stage, in her prime. What a feast! Her dance has elegance, eloquence and educative content. Each hasta, each movement is clearly finished. There is no hurry-flurry that inflicts dancing today in most forms, not just Kuchipudi. Add brilliance of technique and a face that can emote just with eyes and you have a complete artiste. When Yamini K came on stage, there was no need for electricity because her mere presence on stage was electrifying. If ever there was a prima donna and prima ballerina rolled in one, it is her.

Shovana Narayan, the smart Kathak dancer from Delhi enhanced the occasion, along with local talents Shama Krishna, Anuradha Vikranth, Rukmini Vijayakumar, etc. Prateeksha Kashi has humility that will go far in her dance career and this was evident when she was too shy to stand with all worthies when her DVD called The Magic of Kuchipudi was released by Yamini K on the occasion. Yamini's acceptance speech was simple and effective. “Dance is the only passion in my life,” she said and showcased why great artistes become great. They don’t multi-task but do one task fully and properly. She is a ratna of Bharat. Hope she gets the Bharat Ratna, as no dancer has got till date and she, more than anyone else, deserves it.

While historically Yamini platformed and centre staged Kuchipudi nationally in the late fifties winning the form national recognition, she also is the reason why many learnt Orissi. It was her example that made Ritha Devi learn and seeing her, Indrani came to Orissi. Rest, as they say is history. And it can be said seeing her dance from 1960s to now that Yamini was not made for Bharatanatyam but that Bharatanatyam was made for Yamini. Bangalore was blessed to have her visit and share her art with those who partook of it. Her morning impromptu depiction of her signature item - Yaduvamsa...Ra Ra... reminded one of a man who got up from the hall and got on stage thinking she was calling out to him!

Vyjayanthi Kashi stands congratulated for having put this rare event together. She was an active and effective Chairman of Karnataka Sangeet Natak Akademi until recently and returns to dance with rigour and vigour. Is she is another Yamini in the making, with her passion for dance?

Ashish Mohan Khokar serves dance. He edits and publishes India’s only yearbook on dance - attendance - now in its 16th year and is custodian-curator of India’s largest dance materials - the Mohan Khokar Dance Collection.
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