On Dance

by V P Dhananjayan

Felicitation address at Srikrishna Gana sabha on 13 Dec 2013

Sadgurubhyo namaha:
I always begin my speeches by saying that "our country is Bhaarat & we are Bhaarateeya and all our performing arts are Bhaaratanaatya" . I took it upon me - a mission to change the  name INDIA back to BHAARAT.

Dignitaries on the dais and Sahrudayas in the audience, my seasonís greeting to all of you.  I deem it an honour bestowed on me by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, dynamic Secretary Sri. Y.Prabhu asking me to do the honouring of the awardees and felicitate them.  The felicitation talk after an award function has become a routine gesture on the part of the organization, but time factor restricts highlighting the achievements of the awardees. 

Moreover  THE CITATION  read about the awardees carry all their achievements mentioned  so repeating it is also redundant. People in the audience are also restless listening to speeches and some times complain that speakers cling on to the mike when they stand before a mike.

Please I assure you that I will confine my speech only to the subject of felicitating this yearís awardees Smt. Swapnasundari and Sri. A.Janardanan. 

When I was the convener of the Naatya Kala conference in 1995 -96 Krishna Gana Sabha audience gave the best lecture demonstration merit award to both Swapna and Janardanan. After that it has taken all these years for them to be elevated to Nrityachoodamani and Aacharyachoodamani. My hearty congratulations and blessing to both of them.

Swapnasundari is an all rounder with proficiency in Bharatanaatyam, Kuchipudi naatyam, Karnataka Sangeetam, Telugu literature and now a research scholar who brought the obscure Vilasini naatya of Anadhrapradesh into limelight.  Both Shanta and myself have been ardent admirers of her since 1980s when we saw her in Delhi performing in Jhamkar Theater of Kamani auditorium.  Her mother Sarala Rao was a great scholar and musicologist and singer who was instrumental in us getting a break in ICCR for which we are ever thankful.  I do not know how many of you have heard Swapna singing along with our living legend Dr.Balamuralikrishna.  The cassette recoding of their rending of Padams & jawalies, Annamayyakritis, is a revelation to all the Naatya fraternity and Carnatic musicians.   In her youthful heydays she was vibrant on stage with sparkling footwork, both in Bharatanaatyam and Kuchipudi naatyam.  If I am right she had the tutelage under Guru Adyar  K. lakshmanan for some time, which probably must have enhanced her whole perception of Naatya presentation.  Her Abhinaya surpasses many legends of the past and present.

So Nrityachoodamani is a most befitting crest jewel on Swapnasundari and we are all happy and proud one of our colleagues in the Naatya fraternity has received it this year at least.  Blessings and congratulations once again to Smt. Swapnasundari. Her illustrious mother Sarala Rao should have been here to see this great event taking place and Sri Krishna Ganasabha can justifiably be proud of honouring yet another truly deserving artiste in Smt. Swapnasundari.

This yearís Achaaryachoodamani is bestowed upon yet another stalwart in the field of Kathakali and Bharatanaatyam, equally proficient in both styles of classical performing arts.  Janardananís illustrious father and Guru, Asan Chanduppanikkar was known for his extraordinary capacity to teach and train even a MAKKU SAAMBRAANI into a Master of art. For example I am one of them standing before you adorning a coveted crest jewel Nrityachoodamani.  This great Guru brought me to Kalakshetra and made me what I am today. The same way I can justifiably be proud that both Kalakshetra Kunhiraman  (yet another great guru from kalaksetra) & I brought Janardanan to Kalakshetra in 1958 much against the wishes of his own father who wanted his boy to be a school teacher in the village.  Janardananís inborn histrionic talent came forth with his entry into the portals of Kalakshetra and he became the most confident and close associate of Smt. Rukminidevi who was the mentor for all of us.

He has the proud privilege of having the longest close association with the legendary  ďAthaiĒ.  Hence, the institution is now taking the advantage of his extraordinary capacity as an Achaarya to revive the original compositions of Rukminideviís monumental productions in Kalakshetra.  I wonít hesitate to compliment Janardanan for his long association with his alma mater and his continued service to the institution with utmost sincerity and total dedication even after his formal retirement from the post of Principal.  I take pride in saying that his father Asan Chanduppanikkar put him under my care until I left the institution, of course supported by my colleague Balagopal (another great artiste trained by Janardananís father) and before I left Kalakshetra I had the privilege of imparting all my main roles in the Kalakshetra productions to Janardanan. 

He had the great opportunity of specializing in Kathakali ĎMukhabhinaya from none other than the legend Kalamandalam Krishna Nair - also a senior disciple of Janardananís father Asan Chanduppanikkar - which brought a new dimension to Janardananís histrionic ability.

Janardanan, apart from being a superlative performer on stage, handling all sorts of characters with aplomb, has imbibed the choreographic acumen from Rukminidevi and his own father Asan.  A teacher par excellence, he deserves to be an AACHAARYA CHOODAMANI and I take pride in congratulating and blessing my younger brother for this coveted award and thank Sri Krishna Gana sabha for honouring Janardanan.

Thank you Mr. Prabhu for inviting me to honour these artistes.  Jai Bhaarat. 

Speech made during the inauguration of Naadhabrahmam Art festival on 12 Dec 2013
On sponsorships - Corporate Houses

It is not easy for all the Sabhas to conduct any performance of music concerts or Naatya performances without the support of big and small commercial houses or big corporate companies. 

In 1985 when I was the recipient of the Nrityachoodamani award from Sri Krishna Gaana Sabha, my acceptance speech was printed and distributed to a record crowd.  In my speech I pointed out that since Chennai has the habit of free culture and people are reluctant to buy tickets for classical arts, I gave the idea of Corporate houses helping the Sabhas with liberal sponsorships and patronage to the art and artistes, substituting for the Kings and feudal lords who were real connoisseur patrons of art.  Though I was criticized initially, the idea caught up with the Sabhas. Now we see many corporate houses come forward, generously supporting Sabhas during the December season. We do appreciate their generosity.  But at the same time I do suggest, the sponsors should also keep a check on these receiving cultural bodies, how much of their sponsorship money is used to remunerate professional artistes.   We do not know whether the organisations understand or realize the problems of professionals in the field of Bharatanaatyam &  other classical performing arts - the expenses involved in putting up shows.

A simple solo Bharatanaatyam performance costs not less than Rs.30,000/- to 50000/- depending upon the professionals involved and for a simple group production  it costs not less than one to two lakhs (again depending upon the number of artistes and stage technicalities involved).

In comparison to cultural organizations in the neighboring States who do pay the artistes well, Tamizhnaadu, especially Chennai has a negative reputation of not paying professional artistes adequately in spite of being the world hub of art & culture.  This trend should change by the liberal help of big corporate houses.

 V.P.Dhananjayan (Chennai)