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Book launch of 'Offstage'
- V.V. Ramani

September 5, 2022

A striking black and white image of a dancer with a red bindi on the cover of a book grabbed attention, as one walked into the auditorium of Spastic Society of Tamilnadu ,which has become the new space for Bharata Kalanjali, the dance institution of the Dhananjayans. A closer look revealed the title of the book graphically positioned on the right side of the image. Titled 'Offstage,' the book that was being launched on that day was about stories and experiences of Shantha and Dhananjayan which needed to be shared, besides the many interviews they have given over the years, about their life and love in Kalakshetra.


"In the year 2018, when Bharata Kalanjali celebrated its golden jubilee, there were plans to bring out a souvenir. The very idea of a souvenir with photographs and articles was something I detested and thankfully the souvenir didn't see the light of the day," says Satyajit. "The idea of a book lingered on and both Anupama and I felt a strong need to move away from the beaten path. We soon conceptualized the idea of coming up with a book that would look at the dancing couple with a fresh perspective. We decided to share three different narratives of their life in a graphic manner, using drawings, illustrations and comics. The idea was that any adult or child walking into a bookshop should be excited to pick up the book without even knowing who The Dhananjayans were."

"This book touches upon a very important aspect of life Love," said Jug Suraiya, columnist and writer who had come from Delhi to launch this book. "Love that Shanta and Dhananjayan have for each other, their shared love of the chosen art form - Bharatanatyam, the love for dance that they sowed in the minds of rasikas around the world, the love for the art between a master and disciple in their institution and above all, the love the children have for their parents. This book using the medium of graphic arts is also a labour of love."

Satyajit and Anupama were very clear from the beginning that the ideas they had, needed to be expressed in an artistic manner. Therefore they chose three artists with distinct styles to visualise the narratives. Details of some special moments, anecdotes and experiences, both personal and professional spanning many decades from their life, have been presented in a simple style to reach out to a wider audience.

The first section 'Auld Lang Syne' by Satwik Gade is through the eyes of a subjective observer in search of a metanarrative connecting then and now. Blending images and words to capture distinct episodes from the lives of the Dhananjayans, in the section 'Lines and Curves' visual artist Alamelu Annhamalai has used the mediums of charcoal, pen and ink. Illustrator and painter Rohit Bhasi in 'Tour de force' has used the medium of comic illustration to capture a series of absurd, unforgettable series of events from the Dhananjayans' tour of Nigeria in 1980.

The striking black and white photos are by Raghavendra Rao. Coordinated by ArtSpire team this book has been printed by Sudarshan Graphics.

Published by Bharata Kalanjali
ISBN: 978-81-955568-0-9
Price: Rs.1400
Language: English
Available at Amazon

V.V. Ramani
V.V. Ramani is a Chennai based multi-dimensional artist working in diverse fields ranging from collages and painting, teaching art, textile and costume designing, stage sets designing and wedding decor, to writing on visual and performing arts.

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