FRIDAY REVIEW

Guru par excellence

NANDINI RAMANI

Young Kalanidhi in myriad moods...

Young Kalanidhi in myriad moods...  

`DAANA KALANIDHI' would be an apt prefix to this outstanding contributor to the sphere of abhinaya in the field of Bharatanatyam. Her Moorti is small but her Keerti is immeasurable. Such is the grand reputation of this warm-hearted exponent, Kalanidhi Narayanan, guru par excellence, who maintains a wonderful relationship with her disciples. The concept of imparting knowledge in the Indian context, is always referred to, as Vidyaa Daana that symbolises a true, sincere sharing of knowledge with others who seek it. One rarely comes across a teacher especially so in the field of dance, absolutely endowed with this unique reputation of being generous in sharing and caring for each and every student. Kalanidhi Narayanan is a teacher revered, for she has created almost a thousand and more students who are spread all over the globe who have benefited from her guidance.

Talking to this humble and humane woman from a typical Hindu family of art patrons of the early 1930s, was a pleasant experience. Mami, as she is fondly addressed by her students, dwelt on several details of her early artistic training, and the great love for Bharatanatyam, nurtured fondly by her parents, Sumitra and Ganapati. It is well-known that mami had a very brief dance career and her re-entry happened in 1973, after a gap of 30 years. What is astonishing is the amount of energy and enthusiasm with which Kalanidhi immersed herself in the art. This was possible for her to achieve, as she, at the request of the well-known art-patron, Y.G. Doraiswamy, re-appeared at an appropriate time to create a deeper awareness of the abhinaya technique among dancers. This benevolent teacher welcomed all those who came to her with the zeal to explore the intricacies of abhinaya.

Says Kalanidhi, "I never considered the students as inferior, I always felt that they knew something and with that in mind, I used to interact with them. Especially, during the early years of my teaching, I used to sit and discuss with a group of students. We used to read texts like Sringara Manjari (of Saint Akbar Shah), edited by V. Raghavan, take each and every Padam or Javali, categorise them and then work on them. It was like a learning process for me also; apart from this routine exercise, I used to attend almost all the recitals in the city to refresh myself. Besides attending the theory sessions conducted at Padma Subrahmaniam's institution, enriched my knowledge and deeper involvement in my abhinaya specialisation", pours out this lady of immense spirit and passion not only to learn, but also to offer others what she possessed. Among the interesting episodes that Kalanidhi narrated, noteworthy were about two of her brilliant recitals in her pre-teens, one conducted by the reputed Dhanamanikkam and the other by Nattuvanar K. Ganesan, son of the illustrious Kandappa Pillai (Bala's teacher); This writer has had the privilege of learning about these performances of Kalanidhi from none other than K. Ganesan himself, who had a lifetime association with Balasaraswati and her senior disciples.

Guru par excellence

At another time, Kalanidhi was requested by the great Uday Shankar for participating in his film "Kalpana," an offer she gracefully declined for personal reasons. Mami fondly recalls a short film made by her father at the house of the renowned TTK., a great friend of the family, when she was hardly nine years. Kalanidhi was fortunate to be a disciple of Kamakshi Ammal, daughter of Veena Dhanam, for Padams and Javalis and trained by Manakkal Sivarajan in vocal lessons. Kannappa Pillai, from Kanchipuram, was Kalanidhi's teacher for nritta, while she developed her skill in abhinaya with Mylapore Gowri Amma and Chinniah Naidu.

The three decades, 1973 to 2003, found Kalanidhi as the most sought after teacher for abhinaya, each year marked with unique achievements, awards and recognition that came from all quarters — Padmabhushan, Kalaimamani from the Tamil Nadu Government. All India Bhuvalka Award from Kolkata, Sangit Natak Academy Award, Kalidas Samman from Madhya Pradesh Government being some of the noteworthy ones. Age has not diluted her dedication to her art.

Students of Kalanidhi Narayanan from all over assemble in Chennai, on December 6 and 7 at the Community Hall, Luz Avenue, to celebrate her 75th birthday in a grand manner. On this colourful occasion, senior dancers will give special lec-dems in the mornings.

A publication, containing Padams of Sarangapani, Kshetrayya and Annamacharya, with Telugu and Tamil script, translation and transliteration will be brought out.

A CD with the same compositions, compiled by Kalanidhi from her own personal recordings will accompany the book. Copies of the book and the CD will be available for sale at 2, 12th Cross Street, Shastri Nagar, Chennai-600 020.

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