Gayatri Keshavan’s engagement with dance began when she was a five-year-old, and it continues
Sixty calendar years have rolled by, but for Gayatri Keshavan, time seems to stand still in tranquility. What started when she was barely five, continues in full flow with greater impact despite all the happenings in life, which in comparison fade into oblivion. The dance, like creation, goes on eternally, passing on from one generation to the other without a pause!
Isn’t she Fortune’s favourite daughter? How many can cherish their dreams throughout life and derive unending joy through it? “I am indeed blessed to have two daughters who have taken up Bharatanatyam after me and what more my little grand-daughter is all ready to give her first performance,” admits Gayatri, the proud mother–guru.
Dance runs in the family- her father T.K. Narayan, was the first ever Bharatanatyam guru to have started his dance school at Hyderabad even as he was working in the Government Music College there. “My mother Jayalakshmi was a very accomplished Carnatic musician but when she married my father, he taught her dance and in the process, she turned out to be an excellent performer, nattuvanar and musician-all rolled into one. For most part, she chose to teach dance at the school at home and would accompany father and his pupils, including me, as a vocalist for dance performances. Mind you, both came from different backgrounds – my father was a Sanketi from Hassan area where his father was a Vedic scholar and was gifted the village Kaushik by the Mysore Maharaja those days and mother hailed from a music-inclined family of Trichy,” explains Gayatri.
On the dance front, her father had a tough path to tread as dance was not an approved art for a man in his family and he was thrown out. “The great dancer Ramgopal, who lived in Bangalore then, gave dad shelter, nurtured his dance skills, encouraged him and became his mentor. My dad’s passion for dance was something divine. He was the direct disciple of Muthukumara Pillai, the famous exponent of Pandanallur style. It was when dad was working in Mumbai that he wanted to marry a girl who was well-versed in music and that’s how my mother came into the picture. The rest is history,” she completes. Those of us who had seen the couple, late into their seventies at Hyderabad, could not but admire their compatibility-they looked made for each other!
Retracing her steps to her childhood, she recounts her tryst with dance, where one parent, the father, was singularly focused that his daughter should concentrate on dance and dance alone, while her mother encouraged her to learn as many fine arts as possible, not to the neglect of academics either. “So unlike children who rebel the moment the parents try to guide them, I, though their only child, moulded myself the way my mother wished by learning Carnatic music, painting, embroidery, taking literature for my graduation and of course dancing. I felt so happy to be accomplished. At Reddy Women’s College at Hyderabad, I was the only student who knew Bharatanatyam, so my performances were more or less mandatory at college functions. Before my marriage, I had 200 performances at Hyderabad alone to my credit- my mother made a note of this and now, I’ve lost count!” she says with a laugh.
Gayatri’s dance never took a nosedive, come what may. She remembers staying put at home only for two months, when she set up her family at Kolar where her husband was working as an engineer in KGF. If she wasn’t dancing, she was teaching, during her pregnancies. Over the years, moving to Bangalore made her establish her father’s ‘Academy of Bharatanatyam’ and continue the Pandanallur tradition, giving performances abroad and within the country. Her choreographies like Andal Kalyanam, Sri Nimishamba Devi, Samudra Manthan and Poothana Moksham have won her accolades all through; and so have the innumerable pupils trained by her. She is actually going to revisit her ‘Poothana Moksham’ as a solo performance after 30 years on her 60th birthday where all the three generations will take to stage keeping the family passion alive and glowing.
The performance is at JSS Auditorium, Jayanagar 8th Block, Bangalore on February 16, 11 a.m.