Dance

Epitome of grace

Nirmala Ramachandran. File Photo  

Natyacharya V. P. Dhananjayan fondly remembers the Bharatanatyam dancer and a close associate Nirmala Ramachandran, who passed away recently:

Nirmala Ramachandran (nee Viswanathan), Nirmala akka to all of us, was a household name in the 1950s and early 1960s, as she slowly stole the limelight from Kamala, the then queen of Bharatanatyam. She could have easily established herself as another queen, but opted for marriage to Air India official Ramachandran, who was posted abroad.

A devoted wife, her prime concern was maintaining a balanced family life, filled with understanding and love, and till the end, she kept the home fire burning. A perfect match for her, Ramachandran took her all over the world, wherever Air India posted him and she spread the beautiful art of Bharatanatyam in many foreign countries, through her performances, lec-dems and classes.

Nirmala akka was like an elder sister to many of us who cherished her hospitality in whichever country she happened to be. Many artists remember vividly the wonderful host that she was during the India festival in the USSR in 1987-88, as she fed hungry troupes craving for idly-sambar or an Indian meal.

Akka often said, betraying a slight trace of disappointment, that when she returned to Chennai, after three decades abroad, the art world did not welcome her with same warmth that she had showered on our artists. Still her passion and fervour to serve Bharatanatyam did not diminish. She would be there for young and old, applauding enthusiastically.

Born on February 9, 1936, Nirmala Ramachandran had her arangetram when she was 11 under the doyen, Guru Pandanallur Chokkalingam Pillai. She deepened her knowledge of abhinaya under yet another doyen of Sadir, Mylapore Gowri Ammal.

Nirmala akka was one of earliest recipients of the Government of India merit scholarship when the scheme was announced in the early 1950s. She did her B.A. in Carnatic music from the Madras University, and advanced music under K.V. Narayanaswamy and Mukthamma. Her practical knowledge of music and literature lent an added dimension to akka’s Bharatanatyam performances. So she was able to hold herself on the same rung as Kamala.

Nirmala akka had the great fortune of interacting with Balasaraswathi Amma. Everyone appreciated her sensitive ‘abhinaya.’

Akka’s sister Nalini Prasad used to accompany her during performances, giving her an excellent vocal support. Staying away from her home for a long time, she lost the lion’s share of her much deserved recognition, yet connoisseurs were generous in acknowledging her merit. She did get some of the prestigious awards and honours from the Government and cultural organisations. The last of the awards to come her way were the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana honour and the title ‘Nritya Kala Sagaram.’

Nirmala Ramachandran died on February 23, after a brief illness. She is survived with her husband Ramachandran and two sons.


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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 8:07:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/Epitome-of-grace/article14943238.ece

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