Anish and Anuka King, classically trained teenagers, who are raring to go. S
Anish and Anuka King are typical teenagers. “Oh yes, we are great friends. We do not fight or argue,” says Anish with a twinkle in his eye. And promptly teases his sister. And Anuka pretends to be cross with him.
This good humoured exchange reveals quite a bit about the talented King siblings, who along with elder brother Sean (who is now studying in the U.S), have been making their mark in Chennai’s Carnatic scene for nearly a decade now. While Sean and Anish are violinists who play ragas with the same confidence as Western classical notes, Anuka pursues Bharatanatyam with devotion.
Every year, the teenagers visit Chennai for a month or two, to give performances and explore the classical scene. During a recent interview, Anish and Anuka opens up about themselves, their art and other interests.
Anuka, the youngest at 16, is shy but when she has to convey her thoughts, she does not mince words. “My mother Priya (a student of K.N. Dhandayudhapani Pillai) introduced me to Bharatanatyam, and I started dancing when I was five,” she says. “Initially, I learnt from Usha Srinivasan and then tutored under Adyar Lakshman. In time, he suggested that I continue my lessons with Shobana Bhalchandra.” Anuka had her arangetram in July 2006 and that December Season, she took the stage.
The slender youngster is also proficient in ballet. “If ballet is about balance and flexibility, Bharatanatyam is about discipline and timing. And yes, grace is a common factor,” says Anuka, sounding like a seasoned dancer, who loves performing “the action-packed kavutuvam as much as the slower varnam,” and enjoys watching Odissi performances.
Anuka gave her first solo show when she was all of eight. She danced to a packed auditorium of her school in Bangkok. In December that year, at the invitation of the Embassy of India, Bangkok, Anuka danced for Queen Sirikit of Thailand, and other dignitaries. Does she feel nervous? “No. Once I go on stage, I let my dance take over,” says this scuba-diving enthusiast.
Two classical genres
For 18-year-old Anish, playing the violin is more than a hobby. Switching between Carnatic and Western classical comes easily to him. He says, “I started playing Carnatic violin when I was six and Western violin at seven. I began my training with Karaikal Venkatasubramanian, and later learnt from Prof. T. N. Krishnan, Parur Anantharaman and M. A. Krishnaswamy.” At present, he is honing his skills under M. Balakrishnan and Ragavendra Rao, senior disciples of Prof Krishnan.
Anish is happy playing solo. “It builds character,” he says with a smile. This fan of jazz who is headed to Columbia University to pursue a career in the Sciences, finds the violin sounds of Italian Niccolò Paganini, Belgian Henri Vieuxtemp and Polish composer Henry Wieniawski challenging.
Besides the classical connection, the siblings are known for their sharp moves on the chess board. In fact Anuka recently won a prize at a championship. The siblings credit their father John King with initiating them into the mind game. Besides, tennis is another passion as is reading. Back home in Bangkok, their plates are full with tennis lessons, music and dance classes and of course, a tough IB school syllabus. How often do they practise? “At least once a week,” the duo speaks in unison. Do they see themselves as professional artists in the future? Anish replies, “Not really. But music will remain an integral part of our lives, our personality.”