Watch the story unfold, presented by Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam’s Nrithyodaya and Narada Gana Sabha.

The story of Mahatma Gandhi is what Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam will present as homage to the Father of the Nation on his birth anniversary, October 2. The source is Kothamangalam Subbu’s ‘Gandhi Mahaan Kadhai.’ It was meant to be a script for Villuppattu and the Padma has chosen verses to suit a 90-minute visual narration.

“Nrithyodaya is completing 70 years and it is 60 years since I first went on stage,” informs Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. “Gandhiji is both classical and contemporary,” she continues. “Nrityodaya was founded by my father, K. Subrahmanyam, a Gandhian. He inculcated nationalism in the entire family. His film, ‘Tyaga Bhoomi,’ was banned by the British Raj for its nationalistic content. What better tribute could we offer than dedicating a production on the Mahatma?”

The seed was sown by R. Krishnaswamy, secretary of Narada Gana Sabha. “He asked me whether I could give Kothamangalam Subbu’s work visual form and promptly gave the book too. The 300-page volume is a treasure. The verses trace not only the story of the Mahatma but the history of the Freedom Struggle. I chose the verses, rural in tenor, to weave a coherent narrative and set them to tune, folk style.”

Folk is not new to Nrithyodaya. “No. In fact, the folk style is a homage to my sister-in-law, the late Shyamala Balakrishnan. She worked at Gandhi Gram, where she was a member of Santi Sena, was in charge of the orphanage and was head of the music department. Her service took her all over the State, especially to the tribal areas, a rich source of folk songs. She went on to present a thesis on the subject, way back in 1960, and her expertise has enriched our productions in no small way.”

Dr. Padma is dismayed that the youth need introduction to the Father of the Nation. “Yes. They know nothing about him beyond the text book. Quite a few in my troupe found the entire experience educative,” she says. As many as 50 are taking the stage on October 2. This, apart from the 10-member orchestra that includes Dr. Gayatri Kannan (vocal and nattuvangam). “It is katha, through dance and music; you won’t find dancers donning roles.” Sharing the narration with Dr. Padma is Vinith, senior disciple, present in all Nrithyodaya productions.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Chairman, Kalakshetra Foundation, and former Governor of West Bengal, will be the chief guest. The ‘Guests of Honour’ list has well-known names. “But there won’t be speeches,” clarifies Padma. “It is a tribute and so it will be. The serenity should not be marred,” she observes.

The dancer, however, shares a nugget. “Gandhi Smarak has honoured me with a Khadi shawl and a plaque that has etched in it words of Gandhiji. And it is signed by the Mahatma. It will be apt to receive it from the chief guest but in a quiet way.” Dr. Padma reads out, her voice choking on the words:

‘Seven Social Sins:

Politics without Principles

Wealth without Work

Pleasure without Conscience

Knowledge without Character

Commerce without Morality

Science without Humanity

Worship without Sacrifice.’

My life is my message.

-- M.K. Gandhi

Show time: October 2, 6.30 p.m., Narada Gana Sabha. All are welcome.

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