Dance

Srekala Bharath: ‘I derive my energy from dance’

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The dancer owes it to her Guru K.J. Sarasa for shaping her as an artiste and individual

Anytime, anywhere you meet Srekala Bharath, you are bound to enjoy a lively banter. ‘Kalakalappu’ as they say in Tamil. It is this infectious enthusiasm that has her all charged up as she gets ready to celebrate the golden jubilee of her dance career and 20 years of her school, Thejas. “I derive my energy from dance,” she says.

Talking about her long journey, one realises that K.J. Sarasa, her illustrious guru is an inseparable part of it. Srekala was her disciple for 30 years, from 1969 to 1999, and grew up imbibing all that she had to give. “‘Kalakala inge va ma’ is how Sarasa teacher used to call me with affection,” recalls Srekala.

Srekala Bharath: ‘I derive my energy from dance’

“Those days, girls of middle class Brahmin households were expected to learn classical arts. So at the age of seven, I was enrolled by my parents, Indira and C. R. Krishnamachari, in the dance class closest home, which fortunately happened to be the school of Sarasa teacher, a torchbearer of the Vazhuvoor tradition.”

Srekala performed her arangetram on May 22, 1972. “It was a very special day for me. My grandfather C.R. Rajagopalachari, a leading lawyer of Cuddalore, had invited all the bigwigs. The first few rows were filled with VIPs but I was totally oblivious of their stature. It was the sheer joy of performing on stage, decked up in beautiful costume and jewellery that motivated me and, strangely even today, I have the same enthusiasm as I go through the process of alankaram,” smiles Srekala.

As she reaches the 50-year milestone, she feels devotion to the guru, who has made it happen. “Teacher was a taskmaster when it came to dance, but once the class was over, she was more a warm and caring guardian, whose sparkling sense of humour endeared her to all the students. Since I was an integral part of her choreographic process, I imbibed the skill from her. She was spontaneous. During a performance for Kartik Fine Arts, when I got my first ‘Natanamamani’ award, she choreographed the Maand thillana in just 18 minutes. Over the years, I have realised the responsibility of taking forward the bani that she so wonderfully nurtured.”

Srekala started her dancing school Thejas in 1999 with just four students. Today, she trains 45 students, besides conducting classes on Skype.

Srekala Bharath: ‘I derive my energy from dance’

“Teaching has helped me mature as a dancer. A lot of give and take happens when I interact with these youngsters. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Thejas, I wish to pass on the guru parampara to my students.”

Srekala feels indebted to her family that supported her pursuit of art and stood by her when she faced serious health issues. “After marriage, I was fortunate to get the support of my mother-in-law, Jaya Krishnan, a musician of merit. My husband and son have always been there to cheer me on every momentous occasion.”

“What, with a voice like this,” she laughs when asked if she is trained in music. “But, I do know the songs of my dance repertoire and sing them in class.”

Srekala has performed at every sabha in Chennai, both as a solo artiste and with her students. She has travelled to 28 countries with 11 of them being ICCR tours.

From the first thematic solo she choreographed, Srekala has come up with many dance productions, beginning with ‘Mahila Mahima - Penn Kulathin Perumai’.“It spoke about women such as Andal, Jhansi Rani, Avvaiyar, Muthulakshmi Reddy and Kannagi,” says Srekala.

‘Amrapali’, ‘Annamaya Bhakthi Manjari’, ‘Sri Thyagaraja Vaibhavam’, ‘Bhakta Meera’ are some of the other productions she has conceptualised and choreographed.

“I start working on new productions during the summer holiday break. It gives me the time to ideate and create, after which it goes through the process of rehearsals and editing before it is staged. Besides choreographing, I also design the costumes for my productions.

“My family is my biggest critic and they keep on my toes. When I got the news of my first award and ran up to my father to share it, he did not congratulate me. After he watched my performance at that award event, he came up to me and said that I deserved the award. It’s the most memorable moment.”

The other moment she cherishes is when Subbudu mama wrote in 1986: “I got many calls in connection with the performance of Srekala Bharat at Annamalai Mandram. I had almost made up my mind to ignore this performance, but I had an intuitive urge to watch it and was not disappointed”.

Srekala is the recipient of many awards, the noteworthy among them being Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu, Nadanamamani from Kartik Fine Arts, Acharya Choodamani from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. She has released DVDs ‘Learn basics of Bharatanatyam’ and has been the secretary of ABHAI.

“There’s so much to do,” she says in her characteristic restless manner, as she gears up for the big event that will be held on July 6 at Narada Gana Sabha.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 1:58:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/srekala-bharath-i-derive-my-energy-from-dance/article28281868.ece

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