The sudden demise of Bharatanatyam guru Jamuna Krishnan has left the dance circles of Delhi in shock and sorrow. A multi-dimensional persona – a musician, dancer/guru, a retired professor of economics at Delhi University – the Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee was always full of verve and vivacity. Music was in her blood, born as she was into an artistic family where her mother was a vocalist and a practising artist in veena. She took to music like fish to water and along with it came an intense love for poetry. She trained in Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Delhi’s famous K J Govindarajan at Triveni Kala Sangam for nearly three decades. Later, she honed her abhinaya facet under Kalanidhi Narayanan of Chennai. Trained as she was in those days by such doyens, it was imminent that her dance was strictly traditional and orthodox though later she herself emerged as a path-breaker with her innovative productions.
Being in North India, she was one of the earliest teachers to inculcate north Indian poetry, especially of Vidyapathi, the 14th century poet, into the ‘margam’ format of Bharatanatyam for which she boldly accepted both bouquets and brickbats. But later, her intense research into Hindi poetry of mystics like Surdas, Meera made her dance presentations appealing and brought in accolades by one and all. The academician in her thirsted for research and it resulted in a volume of original creativity that was played out on stage.
Her prime disciple and daughter Ragini Chandrasekhar is carrying out her mother’s tradition and innovation with the same zeal and zest. “My mother, mentor and guru was a creative mind par excellence whose contribution of poetic treasures to Bharatanatyam repertoire is immense. It is for us to pick and preserve the pearls of artistic treasure she has left behind as a legacy and propagate it to the next generation. She will keep living forever through her disciples and the heritage she bestowed on us,” a grief-stricken Ragini states.
Among her many disciples, up-and-coming dancer Shreyasi Gopinath pays homage to her guru: “She was a great teacher who inspired, ignited the imagination and instilled the love of learning among her disciples. She not only taught me dance but also appreciation of poetry hours together over a cup of coffee. She would quote passages and tell me how to admire the smaller things in life. That she is no more, weighs heavy on my heart.” From the little interaction this critic had with her, Jamuna Krishnan came out as a woman of mettle who did not mince words yet was gentle, candid in her views with self-respect writ all over. Her demise creates a vacuum in the dance arena where tradition rules with rigidity.