Rama Vaidyanathan says she was destined to become a Bharatanatyam dancer.
Rama Vaidyanathan believes that she was destined to dance. Watch her perform Bharatanatyam, and you would agree with her, totally.
“Even before I was born, my mother had decided that I would be a dancer! While she was pregnant with me, she saw Yamini Krishnamurthy's dance in Pune and was enthralled. That day my mother decided that if the child she was carrying was a girl, she would make her learn dance from Yamini. Her wish came true when she saw an announcement in a newspaper that Yamini was beginning a dance school in Delhi. My mother felt that it was providence , and immediately took me to meet Yamini. I was six years old then. I also think I was destined to learn dance from Yamini,” says Delhi-based Rama, who was in Kozhikode recently to perform at the annual Soorya Festival.
Rama feels she was fortunate to be Yamini's student. “I was her very first student. I could not have hoped for a better guru. It was a privilege just to watch her dance while she taught. Imagine interacting with such a gifted dancer from close quarters,” she says, adding that she was also lucky to get another equally great guru – Saroja Vaidyanathan, who, incidentally, is her mother-in-law. “It was my mother-in-law who groomed me as a professional dancer. She taught me how to dance for an audience, what items to choose for a show, and how to go about shaping my career,” she says.
And that career has shaped up wonderfully well. Rama is today widely regarded as one of the finest Bharatanatyam dancers in the country. There is something about her artistry that immediately captures your attention; perhaps it is her alluringly fluid movements on stage, evident even as she perfectly executes those geometrical lines of Bharatanatyam. Besides, the joy she gets from dancing is also quite obvious; a joy that only a true artiste can pass on to the audience. And much like any true artiste, Rama appeals both to the connoisseur and the layman. While the trained eye will appreciate the flawless perfection in her technique and skills in abhinaya, the uninitiated would enjoy a beautiful art form at its best, the way it is meant to be.
“I am glad that I have become a Bharatanatyam dancer. I think it is the most evolved and classical of all our dance forms. The sheer variety in Bharatanatyam is astounding. And there is so much to choose from – even for traditional pieces. I often feel that I just have to dip my hand in a pot and pick something from it to perform,” she smiles.
Rama says though she likes to choreograph theme-based shows, she enjoys doing the margam (the traditional pieces). “Sometimes I do feel we tend to experiment too much with tradition. I believe whatever we do in Bharatanatyam, it shouldn't be at the expense of the basics,” she explains. Among Rama's popular choreographies are ‘Sannidhanam,' ‘Akhilam Madhuram,' and ‘Brahmajaladhara.' “‘Sannidhanam' is a tribute to Hindu temple architecture. I have used the pictures of Tanjore temples as backdrop for this production. ‘Akhilam Madhuram' is about the significance of Vrindavan and Mathura. ‘Brahmajaladhara' is not just mythological stories about River Ganga, but about contemporary issues as well. I trace Ganga's journey from Gangotri to Sundarbans. I made use of Bhagavata and Shankaracharya as well as some contemporary poetry,” she says.
Rama believes that being based in Delhi has helped her as a dancer. “In Delhi, you are exposed to all kinds of dance and art. And you also get a lot of exposure as a dancer. However, gaining respect from the dance circles in Chennai was not easy. They were, I believe, a bit sceptical. Here was a girl from Delhi, who was half-Malayali trying to do Bharatanatyam! But slowly, they began to appreciate me as a dancer,” she smiles.
The dancer says that she loves to watch performances by other Bharatanatyam dancers too. “My favourite performer is Malavika Sarukkai; she has a distinct style of her own. I also like Alarmel Valli and Priyadarsini Govind,” she says.
Keywords: Rama Vaidyanathan