The first major
break came when the Dhananjayans were invited to be part of a cultural
exchange. In 1970, they were invited, to perform in SE Asia with their
troupe. Someone had seen the variety program presented by them and for
the inauguration of the then Malaysia Singapore Airlines, Bharata Kalanjali
was nominated to be taken there for a cultural program exchange with their
counterparts visiting India later. The group at that time consisted of
very young students, with only Shanta and Dhananjayan being the older members
of the troupe. In order to have a regular professional company, they harnessed
their colleagues from Kalakshetra like Adyar Lakshman, the newly married
Narasimhachari and his wife Vasanthalakshmi who was a tender 15 years of
age, and formed the Bharata Kalanjali Dance Troupe. They envisaged an innovative
program called Aikya Bhaaratam comprising of folk and classical dance from
Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
the Dances of India was designed to integrate India through folk and classical
dances from different regions, with authentic costumes, music and dance.
It vividly depicted the Indian culture, the life and rhythm about the abundant
beauty of rustic rituals in dances and music covering the length and breadth
of India. The presentation commemorated the introduction of MSA’s new Boeing
707 fanjet service between Singapore - Kuala Lumpur - Madras and symbolized
the new link between the 2 countries.
was such a big hit that it has been performed more than 3000 times over
a span of 30 years. The legacy, including costumes, has been transferred
to senior students of Bharata Kalanjali who, with their students, present
the various items, maintaining the basic structure but with changes in
success of this foreign tour, Bharata Kalanjali became a name to be reckoned
with and there were lots of invitations for Shanta and Dhananjayan to perform
not in conservative Chennai, but out of town, as a duo.
"I got this
idea from a program I had done with the students as a faculty member of
Kalakshetra, to collect funds for the jawans during the Indo Pak war of
1965 / 66. This idea did not go with Kalakshetra’s strict adherence to
tradition but was successful all the same and collected a lot of money.
It was a very colourful show. There was no money to make costumes, so we
borrowed some money and Shanta made them at home."
products, we were well trained in everything from making costumes to dance
makeup, architecture, lighting… everything with relevance was taught at
Kalakshetra. Costumes for Kalakshetra dance dramas had been made by the
students who observed and worked with specialists coming in from Kerala,
thereby learning how to make crowns, jewellery items, even ankle bells
that we used to sew ourselves. All that knowledge came in useful to prepare
for this tour."
Singapore Airlines had organized a beautiful tour at very big venues, with
a lot of publicity. The Bharata Kalanjali troupe and the Malaysia Singapore
artists gave a combined recital at the University Centenary Auditorium
in Madras. It was a grand success and gave a big boost to the reputation
of the Bharata Kalanjali troupe."