Dance

Partners in the arts

Chandrasekaran and Subhashini   | Photo Credit: grjgm

If one needed an example of commitment, one could find it in Subhashini Chandrasekaran. Just two days after giving birth to her second child, she went to Delhi to conduct nattuvangam for Vyjayanthimala Bali’s Bharatanatyam recital. When the programme ended, Vyjayanthimala made the announcement about Subhashini’s condition, which earned her a standing ovation. Her mother-in-law, who supported and encouraged her to go to Delhi, took care of the baby.

Chandrasekaran, Subhashini’s husband, and she hail from families that have been deeply involved with Bharatanatyam for generations.

“I had learnt the mridangam. Sometimes I would be asked to play the dholak (dolki) along with mridangam artists C.B. Arumugam or Nellai Kannan,” says Chandrasekaran.

The couple, both employed with the Annamalai University, Chidambaram, teach private students there and during weekends in Chennai.

Subhashini learnt dance from her grandmother T.K. Rajalakshmi. She had her arangetram when she was in the 9th Std. After completing Std 12, she got married to Chandrasekaran. Her in-laws, Thanjai Arunachalam Pillai and Jayalakshmi Arunachalam, were dance teachers/nattuvanars. They, and her grandmother, were disciples of Thanjavur Pichaiah Pillai, so it was easy for Subhashini to continue her lessons without any clash of styles.

Chandarasekaran learnt dance as well as nattuvangam; but his interest in mathematics drew him to the mridangam. His grandmother Karaikal Saradambal was a teacher at Kalakshetra, Chennai. After watching Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar describe how she used to teach, Subhashini regretted that she did not have the opportunity to learn from her. Her husband’s aunt Nagarathinam Ammal and Rukmini Devi had learnt together under the legendary Meenakshisundaram Pillai.

Chandrasekaran and his father used to travel to the college by cycle rickshaw. He says, “During that ride, father would teach me the techniques of Bharatanatyam and how to play the mridangam for it, the intricacies of tala calculations and patterns, etc. Everyday, my father, C.B. Arumugam, Nellai Kannan, Radhika and sometimes, Kalyanasundaram and Mahalingam from Mumbai, would meet and discuss music and dance. My father was also an excellent vocalist. He had used to do nattuvangam for actor Hema Malini, who would come home to learn, besides Vyjayanthimala and Kamala Lakshminarayanan. He passed away while conducting nattuvangam for a performance on stage.”

Subhashini joined the College of Carnatic Music and got a diploma in Nattuvangam, even as she completed her B.A. Economics from Queen Mary’s College. A Central Government scholarship for nattuvangam under Smt. Indira Rajan and another scholarship from the Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram came as bonuses. Through her studying years, she conducted nattuvangam for many leading dancers, especially Vyjayanthimala, with whom she travelled to the U.S.

Today, Subhashini has students from the U.K., Switzerland and Singapore, as well as many from Chennai, Mayavaram and other cities. When they are ready for their arangetram, she is sure to be there to conduct their nattuvangam. Before joining the University, the couple would travel for programmes fairly often. But now it is possible only during the vacation time. The couple’s Dineshkumar too is a trained Bharatanatyam dancer who had his arangetram in 2011. Although daughter Rajeswari discontinued her training, she teaches at home; she can play the violin and keyboard and works as an audio engineer. So, the artistic streak continues in the family.



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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 1:22:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/nattuvanars-subhashini-and-chandrasekaran-are-keeping-the-family-legacy-alive/article7711815.ece

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