Three senior disciple of Bharatanatyam guru Adyar K. Lakshman paid rich tribute on his 75th birthday on December 16. Roja Kannan, Jayanthi Subramaniam and Bragha Bessel presented a thematic presentation of Tiruppavai and Tiruvempavai. "It is a tribute to the guru who awakened the 'athma gnana' in his students," the disciples declared in the introduction.
Adyar Lakshman's son L. Baba Prasad presented a short film on the maestro produced by his Digi Sound Studio. The presentation included pictures from Lakshman's photo album of his days at Kalakshetra. "It is this institution to which I owe all my honours, titles and name,” Lakshman says in the short documentary.
The dance tribute began with 'Thodayamangalam' choreographed by Lakshman followed by four verses each from Tiruppavai and Tiruvempavai. The felicitations to the guru followed. Anita Ratnam, another senior disciple, remembered the guru for his jokes during classes and for his approach in getting her and sister Preeta interested in dance during their early training. "I was too young to know what I was learning then, but I now realise the wealth we received from this guru," she said.
Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy reminisced the days the team of Madurai N. Krishnan, Adyar Lakshman, Trichur Ramanathan and she evolved, fighting against many odds. "Lakshman has been a dedicated soul since the time we faced hills and valleys in proving ourselves in this art form. His kalapramanam is incomparable. The Nandichol and the Khamas raga varnam are hallmarks, which no one would ever forget," she said.
Nandini Ramani said though she is from the legendary T. Balasaraswathi school, which is completely different from that of Laksman, she had a great regard for the maestro’s adavus and korvais. "Lakshman mastered the art of nattuvangam when it was only the 'paramparai nattuvanars' who used to excel in nattuvangam," Nandini remarked. She also spoke of his musical knowledge that, apart from being successful Bharatanatyam guru, the brothers Alyar Lakshman and Rama Rao are graded artistes of All India Radio in vocal singing too.
Lakshman's brothers K. Rama Rao, K. Gopinath, sister Nagamani Srinivasa Rao and wife Vasantha Lashman, all an inseparable part of his contribution to the art, were also felicitated. The dancers Vasanthalakshmi and Narasimhachari who are also the disciples of Adyar Lakshman, remembered their guru as a stern teacher and a task master, but a compassionate person who respects all styles of Bharatanatyam.
Kalanidhi Narayanan pointed out that Lakshman was the first teacher to send his students to learn 'abhinaya' from her.
In his acceptance speech, the maestro said he was fortunate to have such students who revere their guru. He acknowledged the contribution and co-operation of his siblings and wife to his growth to this level. "My father, an educationist, wanted me and my brother to excel in music and sent us to Kalakshetra terminating our academic learning with 2nd standard. But studying at Kalakshetra meant acquiring all the qualification," he remembered the institution where he studied vocal music, dance, mridangam and nattuvangam under the supervision of Rukmini Devi Arundale. "As a young boy, I was much interested in cricket and used to play the sport, till Rukmini amma sent a servant to fetch me from the grounds. She gave me an ultimatum of 24 hours to choose between cricket and dance. I decided to go for dance. Then I had the opportunity to train under many stalwarts at Kalakshetra. This is the secret behind how I came into Bharatanatyam and what I am today!"
He said that art enhances the value and quality of life and the young students of today should read and hear about the masters of the yesteryear and emulate rich values in them.