Dancing to fame

KUTTY HAD a little dream when he was 15 — to get a small part as one of the dancers in the background of a Tamil film song, someday. His brother Solomon, a film dance artiste, was his role model. But he had hardly begun to practise when tragedy struck — Kutty lost a leg.

Today, five years later, Kutty is a real life hero. He can dance continuously for over 90 minutes. A veteran of over 2000 small-time shows at temples, schools, colleges and even a few overseas venues. All without a leg. Not even an artificial limb or any kind of support.

Today, he even has a movie made to celebrate his spirit. Vikram came to clap and veteran directors Sridhar and Panchu Arunachalam came to cheer him for the first shot of K.R. Infotainment's `Dancer', a few days ago.

As it happens in the movies, director K.R. spotted Kutty dancing non-stop for about 15 minutes during a programme on disability.

The dancer who still uses a crutch to stand received a standing ovation — he could dance defying gravity after all. K.R. wasted no time in walking up to the stage after the performance to announce that he was making a movie with Kutty in the lead.

That was in January 2001. The director spent hours studying Kutty and scripted the movie with incidents from the dancer's life. "About 75 per cent of the script is from his life. We have also added some commercial elements to it," the director says.

"It was the happiest day of my life. I had never known happiness till then," Kutty says emotionally. "I want to show that it's not handicap of the body that comes between a person and success, it is handicap of the mind," K.R. explains, adding that Kutty's grit, determination and willpower provided the perfect raw material for his film.

Raw talent was then polished with loads of classes. Now Kutty does gymnastics, rides a bike, balances on a cycle, swims without any help and even does a bit of horse riding.

"The movie will showcase it all. He will also do his own stunts," the filmmaker reveals.

No, Kutty, until recently, hadn't heard about or seen `Mayuri' (in which dancer Sudha Chandran, who lost her leg in an accident, played the lead role loosely based on her own life). He just had the sudden urge to dance at the Vinayaka Chathurthi celebrations at the street-side function. And before he knew it, he was hopping to the `Anna Nagar Andal' number, leaving the crowd speechless at first and riotous in its applause soon after. Kutty, pleasantly surprised at the response, went on to do numbers from `Sangamam', `Amarkalam' and Rahman's `Vande Mataram' later.

The filmmaker, who knew about Mayuri's story of triumph, consulted doctors to find out if the artificial limb could help Kutty. But since it was the whole leg that had been amputated, it really wouldn't help him dance. It would just be of cosmetic use, they learnt."I don't want sympathy. I want to be treated as normal. This is not a minus. It is a plus point. I might have never made it so far if I had both my legs," says the eighth standard dropout from Metro English Medium School, who kick-started his ambition, when urchins began to call him `Nondi' (lame). `Dancer', that also stars dance master Robert and `Five Star' Kanika, will be ready for release by April 2004. Music director Praveen Mani has lined up some dance tracks, specially for Kutty to unleash his potential.

Kutty's next step? "I want to go for the Guinness Records for dancing non-stop."

From Sudhish Kamath in Chennai.

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