Madhuvanthi Arun about her mission to edutain
The stage and the classroom are both home for Madhuvanthi Arun and often interchange roles. The artiste-educationist with ‘edutainment' as her watchword believes there are many lessons to be learnt below the proscenium arch, just as there are manifold delights waiting to be discovered within the schoolroom.
Born into a rich family legacy, with Mrs. Y.G.P. for grandmother and thespian Y. Gee Mahendran for father, Madhuvanthi married into an equally illustrious family. Her husband Arun is the grandson of Gemini Ganesan and Savithri. With benchmarks of excellence in her chosen vocations of education and art right before her eyes, Madhuvanthi's prowess naturally comes under the scanner.
“It is true that expectations to live up to the family name will always be there, but I am proud of both legacies and hold them as a phenomenal advantage. I find myself sitting on the shoulders of giants and looking at the world — an advantageous and responsible position,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone.
Integrating education and art by incorporating creative arts into the curriculum can be the panacea for students in today's high-pressure academics-obsessed environment. “We need to integrate art, culture and education in such a way that children are simply happy coming to school,” says the Bharatanatyam dancer and founder of Calibre Educational Trust, Chennai.
Music, dance and yoga are not co-curricular activities but subjects that are mandatory for students up to Class X at her school. Explaining the rationale behind her curriculum, she says, “How can we blame the young generation for their lack of appreciation of art or inability to cherish culture when we have neither taught nor shown them how to do it? There are many youngsters taking to performing arts, but sadly few young people turn up to appreciate cultural performances. It is because an appreciation for the arts has not been cultivated.”
Her recent mixed media presentation ‘Tamizh' in Tiruchi was proof of what she dubs “two sides to my own coin — a confluence of the aesthetic and scholastic.” She enlightened the audience on the history of Tamil Nadu through dance, music and soundtracks from cinema of yesteryear.
The educationist in Madhuvanthi asserts its role when our chat touches on the recent episodes of violence and suicide in Tamil Nadu schools. “First, parents need to relax. The ‘I think this is right for you' attitude and ‘I want you to fulfill my unfulfilled dreams' is at the root of problems.” But Madhuvanthi also takes care to emphasise that schools need to work in tandem with parents and share responsibilities for the education of the child.
For those who pass the buck to technology and media, Madhuvanthi retorts, “You cannot stop driving because there are accidents on the road. You cannot stop embracing technology but you might as well follow the guidelines like PG-rated movies and internet firewalls. But parents choose to ignore them. What is convenient for the parent takes precedence over what is good for the child.”
Madhuvanthi has ambitious plans for her school, to expand till the university level with the backing of her husband. Her teaching methods are fairly experimental, but she proudly shares that the CBSE has appreciated practices followed by the school. What has Madhuvanthi all excited now is her comeback to the stage after a sabbatical, though she has been playing cameo roles recently. She will be playing the protagonist in a rehash of ‘Shakthi', performed 20 years ago. “The play is to celebrate the 60th year of our drama troupe and appa plays a cameo,” she says fondly.
While juggling many hats, she manages to find a balance. “Well, I have no excuses, for the women in my family have all been doing that extremely well. I believe my greatest strength is in being able to compartmentalise my life and give undivided attention to one thing at a point in time.”
More than teaching or performing, it is ‘learning' that spurs her on, a word that she is confident will always remain in the continuous tense.
The story has been corrected for a factual error.