Archive for May 14th, 2008

A brief history of Kalakshetra

May 14, 2008

Vidya Dinakaran at the Bharata Natyam blog:

The name Kalakshetra was suggested by Pandit S. Subramania Sastri, a Sanskrit scholar and member of the academy. His granddaughter S. Sarada was one of the first students. She, along with Radha, Rukmini Devi’s niece, Leelavati, A. Sarada, and Anandi, granddaughter of Kalki Krishnamurti, were among the first to join Kalakshetra, then located in the Theosophical Society’s grounds. D. Pashupati, Raman and Lakshmanan began studying music, and soon more students followed.

Many renowned nattuvanars and dancers of that period taught at the institute. Among them were Meenakshisundaram Pillai, Rukmini Devi’s first teacher, Muthukumara Pillai, and Chokkalingam Pillai. Karaikkal Saradambal Ammal, known for her nritta, polished the technique of the early students. Dandayudapani Pillai later joined the staff, as did Mylapore Gowri Ammal. These early teachers bequeathed many compositions and stylistic inputs to the institute which remain embedded in the Kalakshetra style today. Ambu Pannikar, the great Kathakali ashaan who spent the last six years of his life at Kalakshetra, taught Rukmini Devi several Kathakali movements and set pieces that were used to great effect in her dance dramas. After his death, another doyen – Chandu Pannikar came to the college, bringing along with him young boys, Dhananjayan, Balagopalan, and later, his own son Janardhanan. These three, along with the older Kunhiraman, Ambu Pannikar’s son, became the early male dancers of the institute, participating in the new dramas that Rukmini Devi choreographed. They became known for their heroic roles in Kalakshetra’s dance dramas.

There is more in the piece; take a look.

While I have seen many music blogs, this probably is the first one about dance and from a dancer to boot; I am looking forward to more interesting and informative posts; link via Shencottah.

Some travel stories!

May 14, 2008

I do not know if you ever tried packing and re-packing your bags at the airport. During my journey a couple of days ago from Chicago to India, I had to; however, the experience was made pleasanter by the very helpful and courteous Lufthansa employee Jamilah Bahrami (I hope I got the spelling right). We did have a small mishap with the flight though; during the Chicago-Frankfurt flight, our stroller got broken; so, we had to navigate Frankfurt without the help of a stroller — it was not very comfortable — but it wasn’t unmanageable given we had nearly four hours of time for transit. But, guess what — our broken stroller, which I did not pick up at Frankfurt showed up in Chennai, anyway — and, if you have a baby in stroller, the emigration is pretty fast and comfortable too. By the way, the bassinets that Lufthansa gives for babies is great — it really helps in taking the baby of your lap once in a while.

The couple of hours that we had to spend at Frankfurt waiting to board the Madras flight was made interesting by the discussions that were happening all around. Of all the things I overheard, I liked the observation of a business man (a textile merchant from Tiruppur?), who was amazed at the fact that you can run a real big company involved in producing the goods XXX in Switzerland without having even heard of the name of the minister of XXX; thus, according to him, the level of political corruption in a country can be measured in how big a company or industry you can run without having to meet the political administration and the concerned ministry. Makes sense!

After the deep quench and maintenance at low termperatures for so long in Chiacgo, 30 degree celsius temperature that we were exposed to (at midnight in Madras), in metallurgy speak, is like solutionising-close-to-solvus kind of heat treatment; but we are holding up, and my daughter, admirably.

A quick observation about a trip in the streets of Madras that I took yesterday: the India’s national newspaper since 1878 (?) is reduced to identifying itself with Madras and the trust that Madrasis place on it for its marketing!

So, more Madras-India stories soon here — as and when I get time. So long!