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Curator of culture

To Vimala Rangachar, `Kamaladevi Sanmaan' recipient, culture is a delightful mix of past and present. CHITRA SWAMINATHAN writes

FOR OVER five decades, she has been preserving the dying arts, patronising disillusioned craftspersons and promoting dance, drama, music and education. Vimala Rangachar is a cultural activist indeed! Humility personified, she's hardly the kind to revel in such references. Not surprisingly, after receiving this year's `Kamala Sanmaan' (awarded in the memory of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, founder of the Crafts Council of India) from Tamil Nadu Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao on Monday, she was showered with compliments from craft circles. And Vimala acknowledged it with a coy smile.

Later in the day, she admitted, "It was a moving moment to be honoured in the name of my mentor. And it's particularly heartening to be chosen for it by your co-workers."

In the 1950s, when Vimala was actively involved in theatre, she met Kamaladevi who was also passionate about this performing art and started the all-India Bharatiya Natya Sangh with its State units. "Interestingly, Kamaladevi saw crafts as the common aesthetic element unifying various arts. She told me to learn about our colourful crafts heritage to be a complete artiste. And it did help me in putting up perfect sets and props."

Vimala extensively toured with Kamaladevi, visiting remote crafts pockets in search of unsung artisans. "I was struck by her approach towards the craftspersons. She never displayed a know-all attitude nor was her work shorn of ideological platitudes. It was a great learning experience for me."

Inspired by her mentor and with her family's support, Vimala has been consistently espousing cultural causes to carry an intact `yesterday' into a near perfect `tomorrow'. Sample these: Presently, she is the chairperson of the Karnataka chapter of the Crafts Council of India. She is also the vice-president of the Mysore Education Society College, vice-president of the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography, honorary secretary, Seva Sadan orphanage, and secretary, ADA Rangamandira.

Vimala is also credited with setting up the Jawaharlal Bal Bhavan and the artisan training centre. She was a member of the Karnataka Nataka Academy, Karnataka Music and Dance Academy, vice-chairman of the State Committee for Child Welfare and Recreation, founder secretary of the Bharatiya Natya Sangh and executive committee member of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

For someone who holds all classical arts close to her heart, she is obviously pained to see the `pub and party culture' taking over Bangalore. "We cannot do away with everything modern. Let the past and present co-exist in harmony," says Vimala, who is determined to continue her cultural journey with a pragmatic approach and positive outlook.

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