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The Lotus Throne
- Anita Ratnam, Chennai

Jan 19, 2007
It is that time of year again. All the dancing has stopped on stage and off. Performers have completed all their antics. Smiling, posing, canvassing, promoting, discussing, criticizing and praying. It is that time of year when a small part of this nation waits for the newspapers to reveal who are the hallowed names to be chosen for the PADMA awards.

Let us run by our list of who may be wearing Lotuses this year. Of course, tireless campaigns are going on to win the coveted awards. Fortunately, the committee for the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards comprising of stalwart CV Chandrasekhar, decided wisely to choose senior guru Narmada from Bangalore for the SNA award, over the campaigners.

But back to the Lotus throne. Recommendations from the CM of Tamilnadu's office, via his artiste daughter Kanimozhi, may find singers Bombay Jayshree and Aruna Sairam receive the award this year.

What a crying shame that these awards have not yet been given to the Dhananjayans, gurus Rhadha and CV Chandrasekhar and no Padma award has gone to the pillar of Kalakshetra, S Sarada. Our beloved Periya Sarada teacher! What a huge dishonour it is for our country to not recognize these legends and instead cave into shameless PR of 'I-wanna-be-a-star' dancers!

The Padma awards are announced on Republic Day January 26th. Names that should also not surprise NOL readers are Ananda Shankar Jayant and Geeta Chandran.

It should not surprise readers that even Malavika Sarukkai received this award only 3 years ago and that Alarmel Valli had to share her Sangeet Natak Akademi award for Bharatanatyam five years ago with Prathibha Prahlad. We can easily decide for ourselves who has made significant contributions to the field of dance and how early or late they have been rewarded.

The Padma awards do not come with anything else. No cash, no special concessions to awardees in their lives. Not even permission to use (actually misuse) this award title on invitations and letterheads. Not that it stops anyone from doing so. What does not change is the large number of undeserving artistes who get this award and the larger numbers of real jewels that continue to lie neglected because their PR campaigns in Dilli are not strong enough.

Gone are the days when Sudharani Raghupathy was informed of her award while sipping tea on a roadside in Karnataka while on tour. The chaiwalla recognized her from the photo that appeared in the morning paper and told her about the honour. My late guru Madurai N.Krishnan was woken up from sleep when SUN TV announced his name for the Padma Bhushan even before the government telegram reached his house. Actually the official notification never reached him. Television news did.

One senior critic told me that unless dancers travel to Delhi or appoint an agent to "work" for the Padma award, it will not happen to anyone from Tamilnadu or anywhere else in India. That is why the dancing off stage is often worse than what we are seeing on stage.

Let us all wait for Republic Day January 26, and as the President watches the historic march past in the misty Delhi morning, the nation can awake to coffee, newspapers and another list of largely ho-hum names!

And so it goes...

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