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A journey in Mohiniattam
- Venugopal S.K

December 6, 2020

Recently I happened to watch a series of interviews under a banner called Vedhi curated by Rubina Sudharman, a Mohiniattam performer and a dance teacher, who runs her school Vedhika Performing Arts in New Jersey. What I liked most about the series is the format. Beginning with a narration of the profile of the artiste, she gives the person a forum to present an item of their choice, followed by a chat with well directed questions.

The first interview of the series was with Smitha Rajan, a celebrated Mohiniattam artiste with an exalted lineage. The performance was of high standard in keeping with the authenticity of the style she practices. Abhinaya was the major highlight. Smitha spoke at length about the contributions of her maternal grandmother, the legendary doyen of Mohiniattam, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, and also about the evolution of the dance form since 1930. The interviewer being a dancer herself asked pertinent questions. Overall, it was a happy experience in the morning watching the whole interview.

With Vinitha Nedungadi, the viewers got a fair idea of what she stands for, what are her perceptions about the art form and how it should be projected in front of the audience etc. Her dedication to the dance form she pursues and the strong conviction on methodology she chooses to portray her talent deserves to be appreciated. Difference in perception obviously is an acceptable thing and we may agree to disagree on some of her views. That aspect apart, I must say watching the interview was an enjoyable experience.

The session with Dr. Sunanda Nair was absorbing. It began with a performance followed by a chat taking you through the journey the artiste undertook with much dedication and commitment. Amazing depiction of Karthyani Devi by Sunanda Nair was followed by the straight from heart conversation making for an absorbing Sunday morning. It was inspiring indeed for the growing number of followers of this beautiful dance form.

Rubina's skills in curating the interview with well thought out questions allowed the artistes to open up and cover all aspects of their eventful journey in that limited time. The next artiste in the series was Gopika Varma. Many facets of Gopika Varma unknown to few like me were unfolded in the absorbing interview. Her performance too was absolutely impeccable. The next episode was interesting with Rubina's efforts in identifying the different styles that are being talked about in Mohiniattam and giving representation of those artistes who practice these styles. The views of Jayaprabha Menon were interesting and it's good to see divergent views or opinions so that the connoisseurs of the dance form will have the choice to understand those views explicitly and arrive at their decisions.

The last Sunday featured Rubina's Guru Pallavi Krishnan. She is a name to reckon with in the field of Mohiniattam for her dedicated pursuit in chasing her dreams, coming all the way from Durgapur to Kerala and establishing herself among the top dancers here. She studied at Kerala Kalamandalam and the disciplined coaching there would have surely helped her in furthering her sojourn. Like she mentioned, she is probably the only artiste who can boast of having links with two great institutions of learning, Kerala Kalamandalam and Santiniketan of Kolkata. In her introduction, Rubina did mention about her teacher's stint of learning with Kalamandalam Sugandhi as a private student. It was overall a nice interview to watch with close from the heart comments, probably due to the closeness of the two individuals.

Venugopal S.K is a businessman in the field of Engineering projects, a singer, composer, accredited artiste in Light Music at All India Radio, auditioned and graded member of panel of speakers in Films Division of India, associated with Mohiniattam for over 4 decades as accompanying musician and music composer.

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