Curtain-raiser Several dancers, various styles - Madurai Muralidaran's Silappadigaaram is bringing them together.

Madurai R. Muralidaran and Chitra Muralidaran's dance school Nrithyakshethra Dance Academy celebrates its pearl anniversary this year. The classical dancer-nattuvanar wanted to make it a memorable occasion. What better way than to gather some big names in the city's dance scene and put up a show on a grand scale?

But would it be possible? Will the other dancers, who follow different styles and are respected gurus in their own right, be willing partners? Muralidaran need not have worried. For, every dancer he spoke to was more than willing.

So the talents of Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala, Uma Muralikrishna, Revathy Ramachandran, Kavitha Ramu, Padmalakshmi Suresh, Shiva Kumar, Binesh Mahadevan and of course, Chitra Muralidaran ('My pillar of strength', says Murali), will merge seamlessly to present the evergreen 'Silappadigaaram' on November 21 at Narada Gana Sabha.

To lend a meaningful touch, the proceeds of this dance drama will go to Little Drops, an orphanage.

"I have always been fascinated by Broadway musicals such as 'Chicago' and 'Lion King' and wanted to direct such a show," says Murali just before the inaugural at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. "That's why this production will be structured like a musical, but in our classical style."

When the concept was ready, the hunt for the players began. Earlier, Parvathi had expressed her desire to work with Murali, after watching a student of his perform.

When this opportunity was offered, Parvathi was only too happy to pitch in. She plays Kannagi to Murali's Kovalan. She roped in Kuchipudi dancer Uma, who will play Madhavi.

Uma makes a comeback to Bharatanatyam after 15 years. "That itself is challenging," she says. "I play Madhavi who is the epitome of beauty, grace and dance. What more could I ask for? Yes, I was apprehensive initially, but learnt that nothing succeeds like hard work."

For Revathy, in whose dance studio the rehearsals took place, "just watching the group dance was riveting. That's when I decided I wanted to be part of it." She will lead the other dancers in the title song and other pieces in between the main story.

And so, one by one, the cast fell into place. Binesh is Chozhan, Kavitha Ramu becomes Madari, Padmalakshmi is Koundinya Adigal, Shiva Kumar dons the goldsmith's role and Chitra plays the Pandya king. Besides, gurus including Srekala Bharat, Anitha Guha, Jayanthi Subramaniam and Divyasena willingly sent some of their students to boost the youth quotient.

The group has been perfecting their adavus and abhinaya for over two months now.

The high point

The highlight will be the Indra Vizha scene. Murali has borrowed steps from 11 dance forms, including Kalari and pavai koothu, to choreograph that piece.

What about the music? For Murali's musical dreams to fructify, the songs have to create the right impact. He left no stone unturned. "I spent nearly two and a half lakhs rupees to record with nearly 18 singers. I keep adding to it as and when I get a new idea."

"The music is fabulous," says Parvathi, for whom "this outing has been a great learning experience. We constantly toss ideas at each other and come up with something absolutely fresh and beautiful. The styles we follow may be different, but the spirit is the same."

The senior dancers agree on one thing. "We feel young all over again in the company of the energetic students. We are having so much fun." For the youngsters in the group, it was a chance "to make new friends and work in a co-ordinated manner."

As Murali sums up, "This production is a culmination of 10 years of hard work and passion. I want to take it to other places as well. I will."

('Silappadigaaram' will be staged on November 21, 6.30 p.m., at Narada Gana Sabha. Tickets are available at Odyssey and Shanthi Dresses. Radio partners: Radio One. For details, call 98405 89429, 98840 99397 or 98401 57090.)