Thursday 25 July 2019

The pleasant and the poignant - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The enduring legacy of Indian classical dances has seen virtually a torrential flow in the post-Independence decades. One particularly strong stream has been the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam that -- taking off from an obscure village located over 200 km away from Chennai - had covered once some one-third of all the learners on the globe. It is part of history today that four particularly gifted brothers -- Chinnaiah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivel, all court composers in the early 19th century in Thanjavur -- created not merely ten dazzling Pada Varnams, which have lasted forever as masterpieces of Bharatanatyam, but also laid down the margam, a thoughtfully set-out sequence for presentation, which is still followed diligently by every practitioner.

Among the illustrious gurus, first and foremost, Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai (related closely to the Thanjavur Quartet's family), then his son-in-law Chokkalingam Pillai, and finally his grandson, Subbaraya Pillai, were the doyens of the Pandanallur form, beginning from the last quarter of the 19th century up to the very early 21st century. Along with a few more stalwarts, these gurus kept the flag up for the form, grooming -- among themselves -- almost everybody who was and is anybody for this style: from Ram Gopal, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Indrani Rehman, US Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi, up to teaching at Kalakshetra and continuity of their tradition through Yamini Krishnamurthy, Alarmel Valli and Jamuna Krishnan, among a zillion others.

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