For Radhika Shurajit, Bharatanatyam is not exclusively for the elite.
Just the other day when Radhika Shurajit entered the canteen of a sabha after performing a lecture-demonstration and saw the ‘today's special' board that was put up, she became emotional. At the bottom of the board was written ‘Thaka Dhimi Tha' along with a simple sketch of a boy and girl dancing. Apparently, the man who runs the canteen likes Radhika's dance show by the same name on Jaya TV, and thought the title aptly reflected the Margazhi mood.
Another memorable instance is when the owner of a small brass vessel shop in Pazhani from where Radhika bought a pair of salangai suggested that she watch talented youngsters perform on ‘Thaka Dhimi Tha'.
“Responses such as these are what make my artistic journey fulfilling. And, I feel really good about reaching classical dance to the common man through the popular medium of television,” says Radhika.
Her award-winning weekly dance show ‘Thaka Dhimi Tha' has completed 350 episodes. Conceived of and directed by Radhika, the show provides a platform to up-and-coming Bharatanatyam artists from across the country, and sometimes abroad. It also features senior exponents of the art form as judges.
Television helped Radhika regain the rhythm of her life when a knee problem put an abrupt end to her promising performing career. “I used to perform along with my sisters Shobana and Gayathri and we were popularly referred to as Trio Sisters.” Disciples of the Dhananjayans, the sisters made a name for themselves in the dance field in a short time.
“It was difficult to come to terms with life without dancing. It was then that I turned my attention towards the small screen and thought about doing a show based on classical dance. Thankfully, the idea has been very well received.”
“Dance through lens” became the focus of her life. She analysed and explored the art from a new angle. She also learnt to shoot dance sequences with different cameras. “Performing before a camera is not the same as performing on stage. The expressions, make-up and costume should be understated. Otherwise, you could end up looking dreadful in close-up shots. A dancer should be conscious about the limited space and time. She or he should know when not to look at the camera. I learnt many such things from experience and observation.”
Besides ‘Thaka Dhimi Tha,' Radhika has also made dance capsules for BBC, come up with ad campaigns and choreographed classical dance sequences for films, including the award-winning “Nila Kaigiradhu…” (from “Indira”). But, what she seems to enjoy most is training youngsters who join ‘Thrayee', her dance school.
“Every time a student performs, I see myself in her. I think it's very important for any youngster to learn an art. It adds a new dimension to one's personality and helps them look at the world from a different perspective,” says Radhika.
Over the years, she has choreographed a range of thematic performances, including those based on the compositions of Balamuralikrishna, Kannadasan's songs, songs rendered by M.L. Vasanthakumari and M.S. Subbulakshmi in films, Sangam poetry, and more.
“Passionate about cinema, I adapted many of the lyrical gems of yesteryear into my dance. It's thrilling to choreograph them in my own way. I do not tamper with the music, but sometimes add appropriate jatis. Being used in films does not mean these compositions are less poetic. If modern verses can be taken up, why not these timeless melodies?” says Radhika.