There’s never a dull moment

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Padma Subrahmanyam
Padma Subrahmanyam

‘My aim is to communicate with the last man in the audience. Art minus communication is meaningless.’

Her face is a canvas of emotions. At a Padma Subramaniam recital you are bound to laugh one minute, get emotionally charged the next and contemplate at another. A classical dance that may be radically different (notice the leaps, sculpturesque poses and throw of the leg) but there’s never a dull moment. Fusion, innovation, choreography, thematic presentations…terms that are toast of the dance world today were discovered by Padma almost four decades ago. Besides reading through literary texts and visiting ancient temples and monuments, she has tapped the rich folk tradition of Tamil Nadu to enrich her art. This gives her performances an edge. Let’s hear it from the celebrated artiste on art, education and universal appeal.Do artistes need to consciously create something new to arouse curiosity about their art?

Creating something new should be the natural outcome of one’s artistic growth. It should not be a forced effort. I have never seen my works as experiments. They were more an outcome of an inner urge to explore fresh dimensions. It was never my intention to be different. I didn’t even realise ‘being different’ till the media spoke about it and critics pointed it out. I suppose my style looks novel because there’s a constant interaction between my research and dance; bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Fusion, according to you?

Globalisation in art does not mean creating prototypes. Exchange is fine but not at the cost of one’s identity. I remember adapting a Russian composer’s symphony for Romeo and Juliet to my solo “jatayu moksham” piece. I just used that music to emote…the sancharis, karanas and my technique of using the whole body (derived from the Natyasastra) were all there and went well with the composition. Having learnt Western classical I understood the piece before choreographing it.

Choreography is the buzz word. How should one go about it?

A deep understanding of lyrics, sound knowledge of music, command over the technique, an eagerness to learn and research and a good dose of imagination. If you have all these go ahead.

What’s creativity?

That comes from within. You cannot have an appointment with creativity. You cannot write a poem looking into the dictionary.

Is it okay to describe dance as entertaining? Humour seems to be an integral aspect of your choreography.

Well, hasya is one of my favourite rasas. It is the rasa of life. Classicism is not about shedding tears. I have seen a great sense of humour in the most sublime personalities such as Kanchi Paramacharya. The greatest thing I have learnt from him is to convey profound philosophy in a straightforward manner. My aim is to communicate with the last man in the audience. Art minus communication is meaningless. The term ‘abhinaya’ is not just facial expressions. It means drawing the spectator to an idea. Look at the modern advertisements. It’s contemporary abhinaya. But one who creates should know what has to be completely and what has to be suggestively portrayed. That is ethical aesthetics. The Natyasastra says a production must be such that a family should be able to watch it together.

Art in today’s context?

It’s time we spoke of art at a pan-Asian level. We have a responsibility towards the culture of the orient. We talk of Western influence corrupting our values. But see how they respect their great composers, painters, protect heritage buildings, attend concerts, have shows through the year at opera house, taught to appreciate art…




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