Srinidhi Chidambaram traces her emotional connect with the city through ‘Chennai’. The dancer-doctor tells Chitra Swaminathan about the inspiration behind the production

She wonders if it happens only to her. Each time Srinidhi Chidambaram passes by Sowcarpet, she is reminded of her late father sitting in his clinic and every time she looks at the Madras Medical College those tense moments before the surgery exam come alive. Mylapore always makes her emotional as visuals of visits to the Kapaleeswarar temple holding paati’s hands cloud the mind, her guru’s nattuvangam still echoes in her ears when she is in Adyar while she invariably peeps out of the car window to look at Rani Meyyamai hall and smiles reminiscing herself as a coy bride.

“One day I just sat back and thought how like my small family of in-laws, mother, husband and daughter, this large city has been a witness rather a part of every event --- mundane or exciting --- in my life,” says the gorgeous dancer-doctor.

She decided to link these fond memories with the hoary margam (Bharatanatyam repertoire) and created “Chennai”, a solo performance on November 27 (6.15 p.m.) at the Music Academy. “It’s not about history, spirituality or aesthetics, it’s a way of connecting with myself and the city. When I feel deeply about something I know no other way but to express it through art. It’s liberating, it’s profound,” she says.

But giving a structure to thoughts was not easy. Srinidhi read up a lot on the city, especially historian S. Muthiah’s books, Bharatiyar’s works and Vairamuthu’s poetry. She also looked for musical compositions about the city. Her Varnam, dedicated to Mylapore, is a medley of works that describe the various facets of this cultural and spiritual hub such as Papanasam Sivan’s “kapali karunai nilavum” and Dikshitar’s

The varnam is inspired by Aruna Sairam’s ragam-tanam-pallavi that Srinidhi heard last December at the Music Academy, “it beautifully fused various compositions,” says the disciple of guru S.K. Rajarathanam.

Acclaimed poet Vairamuthu has penned a verse especially for this production. Besides, Srinidhi has included a few more of his works that lent brilliantly to the concept.

”Thirty years of association with classical arts has given me the sensitivity and openness to relate to the usual with an imaginative unusualness. And it’s an amazing feeling to be able to bond with the present as much as it is to travel back in time,” she says patting her three dogs that wrestle for a place close to her.

How does she manage to get off her creative trip to face the harsh health realities as consultant and part of the senior management team at Apollo Hospitals? “I am a classic bipolar Gemini,” she laughs. “I could never give up one for the other. The fact is my world revolves around both. I never went out of the city much on dance tours because it would have affected my academics. Now there’s also home to which I like to give enough time and attention. That’s the reason I avoid parties I would rather prefer a cosy dinner with family and close friends.”

Daughter-in-law of India’s Home Minister P. Chidamabaram and leading lawyer Nalini Chidambaram, Srinidhi loves the freedom at home to be her own and pursue her interests. “From day one my in-laws treated me like a daughter and have been very encouraging. My husband Karthi too respects my feelings and interests. Despite his frenetic schedule, my father-in-law tries to attend my dance performances. He has a deep liking for poetry and Tamil language. My mother-in-law also enjoys reading and writing poetry. She often accompanies me to cutcheris during the December festival.”

How does Srinidhi react when her achievements are attributed to the family connection?

“Even before I got married, I had made a name for myself as an artiste. Initially it used to hurt. But I realised through my commitment and competence I can put an end to such talks. I have seen it happen in Apollo. Many of those who thought I was there for time pass or to flaunt my family connection now acknowledge my work and appreciate my eagerness to take on new responsibilities,” she smiles.

A gadget freak, who cannot do without her i-pod and laptop, Srinidhi prefers to be traditional when it comes to values. “For me, the good-old values taught by my doctor-parents will always hold dear and I wish to pass on them to my daughter Aditi, she says, adding, “Its values that help you remain who you are and are the life force to take you through tears and joys.”