Veteran choreographer for several Tamil and other South Indian-language films, R. Raghuram, died at his residence in Chennai on Saturday afternoon. He was 64.
One of the most respected choreographers in the Tamil film industry, Raghuram ‘Master’ had celebrated his golden jubilee (50 years) in the industry last year.
He worked in around 1,500 films across languages, in several capacities — actor, director and producer — over five decades. Three months ago, he suffered a minor injury in his foot while shooting for Vasantha Balan’s Kaaviya Thalaivan inside a forest and was admitted to a hospital.
He was recovering and was reportedly in good health on Saturday before suffering a heart attack and passing away just past noon.
Raghuram is also grandson of K. Subramaniam, one of the leading luminaries of Tamil cinema and a veteran Tamil film director. Born on May 1, 1949, Raghuram began learning Kathakali from Guru Gopinath at the age of five. After two years, he switched to Bharatanatyam under K.J. Sarasa.
Following his arangetram at the age of 11, he went on to land lead roles in a number of dance dramas, including the one directed by noted Bharatanatyam dancer, Dhandayudha Pani Pillai. He made his film debut as a child artiste with Padikatha Medhai and went on to act in a number of films — including Aruna Giri Nadhar and Thirumalai Deivam. It was in 1962, he first worked as an assistant choreographer to A.K. Chopra for M.G. Ramachandran’s Anbe Va.
Raghuram worked with some of the biggest names in Indian cinema, including Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Amitabh Bachchan. He also directed and produced close to 10 films, notably Viswanathan Velai Vendum, Bhagya Debata (Bengali) and Uruvangal Maaralam.
He is also credited with mentoring several famous choreographers such as Kala and Brindha, among others. Dance master Kala, whose association with Raghuram began when she joined him as his assistant at the age of 12, said, “Not only was he well-versed in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathakali, he went on to learn tap dance, as well.”
He is survived by wife Girija and daughters Gayathri, also an actress and choreographer, and Suja.