Monday, 27 February 2012


Covering the Natyanjali is special and demanding.
But we enjoy the assignment.
After all, KutcheriBuzz works hard at reportage.

That is why we took the Blogging route this year. Filed snappy reports, posted informal pictures and linked them up to the video and photo galleries.

Three made the team - Vincent D Souza, R Revathi and Mohan Das Vadakkara.

On Sunday morning, we went back to the Big Temple, took another look at this great edifice as thousands of visitors filed in and travelled back to our base in Chennai.

The reports, pictures and videos will remain upfront on for a month.
Enjoy them and get your friends to do the same.

P. S. : Natyanjali 2013 will start on March 10.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Pondy-Chidambaram-Karur; quite a connect

When yours is the last recital of the evening, when the audience is reduced to ten and when the time is 10.21 pm, you aren't going to be feeling great as the lights come on for the nth time.

But M. Suganthapriya from Karur did not mind.
She brought up two of her students for the first item and then left her place among the musicians and presented two items, gamely.

Her vocalist Susairaj from Pondicherry told me how young artistes like him and his flutist friend from Annamalai University teamed up with a mridangist and were contracted by Suganthapriya to be here for the Natyanjali.

"Dancers keep looking for musicians who suit their work and network," he said when I wondered how the Karur-Pondy connection came about.

The Triplicane delegation

This was the Triplicane delegation!

Aiswarya takes dance classes in this ancient zone of Chennai, home for Sri Parthasarathy Temple.
This evening her students performed late in the evening and following this recital, it was the turn of a smaller set of dancers who had come all the way from Arakkonam ( a railway zone an hour away from Chennai).

Aiswarya and her colleague in Arakkonam learn under dancer-guru Zakir Hussain ( he couldnt make it because of a wedding he had to attend, we were told).

The Natyanjali is a huge experience for young dance students who hail from the interiors.

What have they done to the Nandi?

Now what have they done to everybody's favourite Nandi here?

The massive Nandi that sits in front of the temple here is a gentle giant. And it is the focus of the abhishekams that take place here.

And on prodosham evenings, this place is very busy.
Now someone here decided that an elevator would make things easy for the priests to do their job. But clearly, the metal structure that appears to be some ugly calipher destroys the image of the Nandi.

It has to be taken away after it is put to use.

This World Heritage site needs a lot more attention. The campus lighting is poor; and the gopurams and all other structures are not lit up after dusk.

Tiny Mrinalini!

This group is all over the place!
Chennai-based Sheela Unnikrishnan has made a big impact with her productions featuring young dancers.
Smart packaging of the recitals also gets the guru corporate fixtures.

On Friday, she and her dancers were at Chidambaram. On Saturday, the team was at the Big Temple. And since Sheela was given 40minutes on stage, she did the smart thing - she got the youngest member of the team, a teeny-weeny Mrinalini Sivakumar to perform before the group got into the act.

Sheela tells me later that they rustled up a dance costume and tailor it for the little girl. "She is going to have her arangetram soon so I thought we could give her a chance here," said Sheela.
The girl enjoyed her time in front of the large audience and she got a big round of applause!

A long Kuchipudi recital . . .

Dr. Saraswathi Rajathesh came to Thanjavur with a group of Kuchipudi dancers and a production.
The local organisers prefer short recitals. So when the Bangalore artistes went on and on the organisers' foreheads creased.

Though the Big Temple is in the middle of this town, neighbourhoods do not hug it and so, the recitals do not get a guaranteed attendance.
And people tend to move on after 9 p.m.

Saraswathi says though Kuchipudi is not hugely popular in Bangalore, she gets youth who are keen to learn the dance. Relocated in Bangalore from Hyderabad, she is busy preparing for a Kuchipudi Fest in Bangalore on March 3 and 4.

You can reach her at

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Maya, the French dancer

Maya grabbed our attention.

A French dancer who is based in Paris and learns dance under Aruna Subramaniam here in Thanjavur, Maya was keen to update us on her career.
She reminded us that we had met at the 2009 Natyanjali in Chidambaram. Yes, we did.
Now she is completing yet another study stint here in Thanjavur and will fly back next week.

She was happy she could perform for prodosham here, at the feet of the giant Nandi.
But she has a keen desire to bring a photographic exhibition on Indian dance that she collaborated with a friend.
She has tried the ICCR and failed.
Maybe the Alliance Francaise can help collborate.

Nice promos for the fest

The Brihanatyanjali started small.
Today, it is big.
Two aspects are good here.
One, local team co ordinates well and its response has made an impression on visiting artistes.
Two, the promotion of the fest.
They create lovely posters and flyers and make good use of them.
These efforts drive lots of tourists who are here as part of their Tamil Nadu / south India tour to spend an evening at the fest.
As we settle down here, we catch Kathakali dancer Probal Gupta from Bangalore on the stage . .

The evening skyline in Thanjavur

We arrive in Thanjavur on Saturday evening, leaving behind 5 days of the Natyanjali in Chidambaram.

It is the evening skyscape that I like to enjoy in the campus of the Big Temple.
We are a tad late. So I manage to click the pink-red-orange splash of the dying evening.

This is Day 6 of the Brihanatyanjali in Thanjavur.
And we hope to capture the spirit and the recital here through this evening.

Friday, 24 February 2012

This Chidambaram troupe impresses . .

Every evening a large group of people fill up the front section of the yard where the stage is.
These are the families, friends and guests of the local dance group which finds a place every evening here.

The local dancers get a huge round of applause. That is expected.

This evening, the dance recital of the Thanjai Natya Kalalayam deserved that applause. They impressed.

Credit must go to guru K. Krishnaraju who has been running this school for some years now.
He also teaches at the Fine Arts Dept. of Annamalai University. "My students are students from the university as well as from the town,"he says as well wishers stream in backstage to wish him after the recital.

Even R. Natarajan, Jt Secretary of the Natyanjali Trust beams. "He studied at our own school and has come up the hard way."

Well done, Krishnaraju and team. We liked the way the dancers took their place on stage after their recital.

From Tumkur to Chidambaram . . .

Tumkur to Chidambaram anybody?
Sure. If you have an invitation to the Natyanjali!

Bala Vishwanath Kethar and her mom shepherded their team of little dancers to this place to perform on Friday.
They stopped at Chennai for a performance, will pay their anjali here and get back home.

Bala is signed up as the face of Karnataka Tourism - which means she gets to perform at all promos of the state's tourism body.

But that is just a bit of herself. Bala has studied under various gurus including Karaikudi Mani in Chennai. She runs a successful dance academy - Nilalaya Nritya Kendra. And more challenging for Bala is teaching a group of visually impaired teenagers to dance.

"I have adopted my own methods like feel and touch to teach them," she says as she prepares for her recital.

Grand homam besides the anjali . .

Final day at Chidambaram.
I spend longer time inside the temple.

Vasu Iyengar, a Bharatanatyam dancer in Delhi and Purva Dhanasree, who is a Vilasini Natyam dancer take turns to offer their anjali before the Lord.
Sitting against a stone pillar and watching the dancers, and the pilgrims do what they are here for is a visual and aural experience.

But there is a bigger event in store.
Closeby, the stage is set for a rudra homam. Dozens of Deekshitars, trays of an assortment of herbs, seeds and dried stuff, rows of fruits and flowers . . .this is really grand and true to a ritual.

Curious, I meet a young women in a classic Conjeevaram sari. A Korean, she tells me that her husband studies Sanskrit and Astronomy at Madurai Kamaraj University and was keen to have a yagnam conducted here. Two other Koreans join them and gently repeat after the priests, the slokas. The yagnam runs for about three hours . . .

I realise I haven't visited the temple tank. The thought does not cling.
I am distracted by a little gathering of schoolgirls who sit in the shadow of the east gopuram and listen to a briefing by their teacher.

So much happens in an hour in a temple of this kind. . .

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Janaki's spiritual journey . . .

Another person on a spiritual journey is Janaki Meera Krishnamurthi from Chennai.
For her, dance is the journey.

Meera says she learnt dance under the famed Chandralekha, was in her productions and went on to study under Kalakshetra's famed Balagopal.

Her move to the USA cut her away from the dance circuit here but now that she is back, based in Thiruvanmiyur, Meera says she is back to dancing.

She goes on stage at 10.40 p.m.

The Natyanjali invitations to Tanjore and Chidambaram she gladly accepted so that her current journey was fulfilling . . .

Stop for the spiritual, the classic, the arts

For most foreign and Indian tourists, this temple town is a short stop.
A stop on their flight from Pondicherry to places like Kumbakonam and Tanjore.
A quick tour of the temple and the Toyotas and Tempo Travellers zip away on these dusty roads.

But there are some foreigners who stop, some who hang on. They are on their spiritual quest. Willing to soak in, understand the Indian system, maybe master a few shlokas or just meditate.

So when the Natyanjali is on, the dance stage is their evening destination.
One such was a Dane who we spotted in a corner, keenly shooting on his video cam some of the recitals. This is his second trip and after stays in Tiruchy and Chidambaram, Thiruvannamalai may be on his calendar. Or perhaps, next year.

Rajiv, a North Indian based now in USA was also enjoying himself shooting pictures. He went ga-gag with the Kathak recital of Janardhan Raj Urs and Ramya from Bangalore, who were sponsored by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi.

Rajiv went into a tizzy when we took him backstage so he could shoot some informal scenes.
"This is splendid. I have seen Khajuraho where the artistes look like stars but here we have all kinds of dancers keen to offer the anjali,"he says.

He livens up when we suggest he also be at Tanjore this week to get another feel of dance in the a temple.

I have said this before; our Tourism johnnies have failed in promoting the dance/music/temple circuit, best done this time of the year.

Another team from Adyar; the Balagurunathans

Another Adyar-based team from Chennai starred at Chidambaram this evening.
The Balagurunathans. Bala and Gayathri.

Bala spent nine years in Singapore at SIFACS and is back to his base in Adyar for good, keen to build on what his wife Gayathri has built of their school.

And this is the first time that he and his wife performed at Natyanjali time, at Thanjavur and at Chidambaram. Performed together.
It was a blessing, he said after the group presented ' Nataraja Vandhanam'.

In the group were the couple's twins who also performed.

They will have to have a quick dinner - am told the chathram is serving chappatis - and zoom back to Chennai in a van. This is the end of academic season and most senior school students who are also in dance teams do not have time to devote elsewhere.

Team from Adyar

The Adyar K Lakshman family plays different parts when it tours for dance.
The senior guru, who used to jet-set till a year ago is now relaxed; age has caught up with him. But when it is time to rewind, he is a great story-teller.

Today, his daughter, Induvadana Malli and daughter-in-law Deepa Baba Prasad, besides son Baba Prasad carry on the tradition.

Baba couldn't make the Chidambaram trip; the other two did. They were joined by Lakshman's brother Gopinath who plays the mridangam and close colleagues like T K Padmanabhan on the violin.

Along with the close team were a few students and on Day Four of the Natyanjali they ended their recital with a thillana composed by the late Rukmini Devi Arundale.
A nice tribute to the lady who groomed Lakshman when he was a keen cricketer.

Young brigade from Bangalore

This is the Bangalore young brigade.
All primed and excited for their turn on stage.

The Shivapriya School led by guru Dr. Sanjay Shantaram.
Am told that Shantaram also acts in TV serials and hence, is well known. And so is his dance school.

Some years ago the dancers were invited by the Kannada Sangha in Singapore for a Karnataka Day Fest and they got to perform in recitals held in a neighbourhood street.

On stage, you cannot make the difference - Kuchipudi or Bharatanatyam?
Artistes who also get invited to give short performances present fast-paced, high octane pieces!

At Chiudambaram, besides the Shantaram, those who performed were Gopal Krishnan, Sneha Bhagwat, Disha Madan, Sushanva Prakash, Deeksha Rao, Stella Rose Mary, Sanjini and Shivani Shivakumar.

You can recah this group at 99860 75667.

Anupama Jaisimha: links with Chidambaram

Anupama Jaisimha has a long association with Chidambaram.

This Bangalore-based Bharatanatyam guru attended a course run by the Annamalai University.

The study meets not only made her

familiar with this temple-Univ town but provide an opportunity to bring her students and offer anjali at the sannidhi of Lord Nataraja.
This season, she was invited to present her senior students at 4 temples for the Sivaratri season.

Anupama presented V. Mangala, Sadhana Hegde and Shobana D S, who have been learning at her feet for close to two decades.
"It is this commitment that makes me go on," says Anupama soon after her 15minutes on stage is over here.

Based in Bangalore's J P Nagar 3rd Phase, the Vishwa Bharathi Natya Shala ( phone; 265 81171/ 2658 8023)will celebrate 31 years later this year. And hopefully, Anupama will have a refurbished dance studio ready then.

True to tradition, Anupama called her guru Tumkur T M Raman before the recital here, got his blessings and feels blessed.
"He is a classical guru. There were times when he would arrive at 4 a.m. at my house for classes!".

Chat room as Chathram

This is not the festival coffee shop.
It is a chathram hired to feed dancers, artistes and all those who attend the Natyanjali at Chidambaram.

But it doubles up as a chat place where touring artistes and friends snatch time to chat.

This afternoon ( Feb.23) there was a jam at lunch time.
Binesh Madhavan led 30 people in; all teenagers like excited kids on a picnic tour.
Soon, Gayathri Balagurunathan led her team in. "I played Kali yesterday!", she told her friends in the hall.
Then, Adyar Lakshman's daughter and daughter-in-law and team trooped in.

There was time to chat as Vageesan cleared two sets of tables, got the plantain leaves set and lunch was ready - rice, vathal kozhumbu, keerai, bajji, rasam, buttermilk and payasam.

If you want to chat and then eat well, come to Chidambaram!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

From Sri Lanka, a cultural tour

From across the Palk Straits, the guests here this evening were from the Shriram Shristhi School, Colombo.

Some years ago, a delegation of Sri Lankan Australian dancers from the faraway continent were here.

Suryakala Chandrika Jeevananthan is the guru and she runs her classes in Dehiwala's Hill Street where she also has a chamber hall. "We can accommodate about 200 guests and it is packed for any recital," she tells us backstage.

She has brought 12 dancers - some studens, some working women. Vaishaalini Rajaratnam, Indika Ponraj, Sharmila Gopalakrishnan, Archana Natraja, Danushiya Arumugam, Nagasai Janani Pathamanathan, Darunya Loganathan, Vinusha Somasundarama, Krithvi Shanmuganathan, Kavishna Thangarath, Thulasika Satyanathan and Sharanya Nataraja.

For all of them, getting the chance to dance at the Nataraja sannidhi just before the doors were closed at noontime was special.

"Its been a wonderful cultural tour," says Suryakala. They wind up on Thursday with a performance at Kalai Kaveri College, an arts campus in Tiruchi where Suryakala did her postgrad studies.

Hopefully, the guru and her dancers will get the opportunity to tour Chennai during the 'season'.

Suryakala's contact - Phone: 00-94-714322000.

Midhilalaya on the circuit . .

Chidambaram welcomed more dancers from Kerala this year.
Which is good - the Natyanjali is open to dancers from across the world anyway.

Thiruvananthapuram-based guru Mythili V. runs the Midhilalaya academy there. Proficient in Bharathanatyam, Mohiniattam and Kuchipudi, she has been focussing on Bharatanatyam and chose to bring six senior dancers to Chidambaram and to other temples on the Natyanjali circuit.

This is a busy academy. I am told that its dancers are engaged in at least one dance production show every month.

Phibhare Ramarasam, based on the eka slokha Ramayanam was their latest for the popular Soorya Fest. An earlier production was titled ' Kalpatharu'.

You can contact this academy at Phone - 0471-2452729.

'Appar Thevaram'

Uma B. Ramesh comes to Chidambaram with a CD.
A CD of music extracted from a full production of Appar, Sundararar and Sambandar.

Its is a production from Thiruvaiyaru-based scholar-teacher Dr. Rama Kausalya.
Uma says she presented this 75-minute dance during the December season but in Chidambaram, due to the short slot she was given, chose to focus on Appar and titled it 'Appar Thevaram'.
Uma says she gave up dance after marriage and took care of the kids but it was Dr. Kausalya, a relative who encouraged her to come back to the stage.
She is known for her footwork and grace and Uma exhibited that at her Natyanjali offering.

Kutties and budding talent on stage

Children also get to be at the Natyanjali.
Often, these dance students are from corners of the state and outside.
On Wednesday evening (Ash Wednesday for Christians, the first day of the season of Lent, a season for contemplation and correction), we met up with guru C. Jayaprakash Narayanan from Kumarapalayam.
His wards, a dozen of them and their mothers had performed at Thiruvaiyaru and Thanjavur before landing here in Chidambaram.
The parents of these kutties enjoy the excitement.
Shanmughasundaram calls from his store in Bhavani to enquire about his daughter's recital this evening. And looks forward to a video of the two items that the group presents.
Even as the sun goes down on a breezy evening, young Kripa Srivatsan from Tiruchy begins her recital with a 'mallari'.
Vijaya Mukandan is her guru. The Mukundans have been running Salangai, for 26 years now.

Light and Sound

Now we know.
Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state enjoyed some privilege during these times when power is in short supply.
Outside the city, the people and the industries suffer.
Power cuts run to two, sometimes three hours.
We got a feel of that situation in Chidambaram.
There are rusty, dirty generators outside halls, stores and large apartments.
But Thennarasu and his team makes sure the Natyanjali is well lit and has the best sound equipment.
Every year, Thennarasu improves his facility. This year he added two branded speakers.
He is also an integral part of the Fest.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Mohinis from Calicut

Kalamandalam Vinodini came to perform at the Natyanjali in Chidambaram over 20 years ago. As a solo Mohiniattam dancer.
On Tuesday, she was back, with her husband who has been a huge support and 11 young dancers and the music troupe to offer anjali the way she had.

Vinodini has over 400 students back home in north Kerala. Her husband says that on weekends she runs her classes from 8 am to close to 10 pm.
Yes, the rave of campus arts fests where the stakes are high for young artistes has driven teenagers to dance classes but Vinodini says she now asks her students to join if they are really keen.

The series of arts fests in Kerala create the opportunities for the young dancers though few go on to pursue the arts as a profession.

The troupe enjoyed performing at the Kumbakonam Natyanjali and had to skip Thanjavur because they have to get back home.

Kuldeep Pai: Filtering his Work for Dancers

Kuldeep Pai used to be a seeker in Chennai's sabhas over a decade ago.
Seeking opportunities.
His has been a slow climb.
But Pai has carved for himself a unique space in the arts world.
As a Carnatic vocalist as well as a vocalist for classical dance.
Many dancers prefer to have Pai perform for them. They say that he is an involved singer who understands the need of a dancer and also contributes to make a performance that much better.
So Pai is also another regular at the Natyanjali.
At Chidambaram, he sang for Jaikishore and his wife and later, for Kalamandalam Vinodini's troupe from Calicut.
Pai says he has filtered his commitments to dancers and hopes to make best use of a home-based studio.

The Prayathnam Spirit

All of them are dance teachers. And they have a cause.

To discourage 'paid dancing' like 'paid news'.

And to encourage some standards in classical dance education.

Prayathnam was created by young dance gurus some years ago.

And it has come some way in its mission.

Recently, it released a form of syllabus for the teaching of dance. The task hasn't been easy what with lots of dance styles.

This Natyanjali season, the Prayathnam group got together, choreographed a production called 'Nadham Thall Vazhga' and did the circuit.

On Monday, they stopped at Kumbakonam for their turn but when it was delayed, rushed to Thanjavur, performed there, rushed back to Kumbakonam and made sure they did the anjali.

On Tuesday, they repeated the show at Chidambaram.

The group had Athena Madhu, Divyasena, Gopinath, Jayanthi Sundar, Lavanya Vikram, Malavika, Prema Lakshmi, Rajeswari, Saikripa Prasanna, Sasirekar Ram Mohan, Sreelatha Vinod and Thangameenakshi.

For these dance teachers. travelling in a tourist van and doing the Natyanjali circuit must be a different experience.

Jai Kishore Mosalikanti and Padmavani

For many years, Kuchipudi guru Jaikishore Mosalikanti has been seen in the corner. A sishya of the great Vempati Chinnasatyam, he is a guru, choreographer and nattuvanar.

But for some time, dance colleagues like Neena Prasad, the Mohiniattam dancer and his wife, Padmavani have been telling Jai that he needs to perform.

Perform on stage if he is to gain better recognition.

The suggestion went home and Jai partners his wife and the duo have been getting invites for Kuchipudi recitals.

"Doing nattuvangam and choreographing for others brings money for middle class artistes like us but we don't have the money to pay to perform," he says candidly as he enjoys a banana backstage at Chidambaram, a hour before his recital.

The couple ( seen in the first photo here) have had it good in their new avatar as dancers. And Jai is keen that we watch their Natyanjali performance. By the looks of it, he seems fired.

This year, Jai will also present - Pranamya Suri from Dallas, USA ( seen in second photo here).

Suri who is about to get into medical school has taken a break to learn more of Kuchipudi, spending 5 months in Chennai and also bagging a few recitals.

Suri's mom is a well known Kuchipudi guru ( a sishya of Shobha Naidu) and runs her school in Dallas. The studio here provides for her training when Jai is in the USA - he will be there this summer.

On Tuesday though, Jaikishore, his wife whom he calls Vani and the sishya from USA want to experience Lord Nataraja's presence.

Space for the Host

You would expect a clutch of dance schools in Chidambaram.
There are though these are places where kids learn the art and their middle class parents get really excited to see their wards in the dance costumes.
But being on the Natyanjali dance stage is bigtime.
They have their space and rightly so.
The recital this Tuesday, the second evening of the fest has students of Thillai Sri Sivakami Nattiyalaya on stage.
The singing did disturb ears used to good music. But it doesn't matter.
This is an anjali and there is space for everybody.

Duo from USA

Kripa Baskaran is from Milwaukee, USA.
She and her US-based sishya Gayatri Vaidyanathan waited patiently for close to two hours before they got to offer their dance anjali at Chidambaram.
But Kripa didn't mind.
By then, half the audience had either gone into the temple on this Mahasivaratri morning, dozens fallen asleep on the sand made moist by a steady dew and at least five other groups and individuals waited out for their turn on stage.

She says she has been in Chennai for the famed December season but never managed to make it to Chidambaram. This year, she set her eyes on the Natyanjali and made it. In a day, she will fly off to the USA.
Gayatri too didn't mind the huge delay. As long as she got to perform her chosen two items.season but never managed to make it to Chidambaram.

She is a psychiatrist but her heart is for dance.
She has time and will go on to perform in a few more temples this week before moving on.
Her dad though has been by her side, arranging for photos and videos to be taken at all the venues.
For many like Kripa and Gayatri, the journey to Chidambaram is a pilgrimage of sorts. And this place has hosted dancers from Australia and Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa and of course, the USA

Nandini Ramani and 6 dancers

Nandini Ramani was the 'Natyanjali writer' for The Hindu for a long time. A time when she wrote on dance for this newspaper and was also in The Music Academy team.

The course changed some years ago.

The Hindu's arts page didn't even have a curtain raiser on the Natyanjali.

This evening, Nandini brings a special varnam to the stage with 7 senior dancers.

Sushama Ranganathan, Nandini's daughter and a dancer in this production says that they have been practicing this varnam since January. They presented it at a show in Chennai. Sushama says it was full house.

"All the dancers here are busy with their own work so we have had to find time to practise," says Sushama.

Priyadarshini Govind, Braga Bessel, Srekala Bharat, Sailaja, Manjari and Sushama make the team of dancers.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Husband-wife on stage

This was an all-Bangalore team on stage.
Prashnath Shastry and Sunitha Prashanth from Bangalore are a couple who have been dancing for a decade.

With them here were Suma on the nattuvangam and Suma's daughter Lavanya on vocals.

Suma says she has encouraged her daughter, who is a concert vocalist to also sing for dance in order to experience the experience and range of music though singing for concert and for dance is entirely different.

New York Times writer at Natyanjali

Alastair Macaulay, a reporter-writer of the New York Times is an accidental visitor at the Natyanjali.
He was in Thanjavur, read about the dance fest here and dashed down. So the organizers invited him on stage and honored him.
Alastair, who once worked for the Financial Times in London says he is touring India to write on dance and on temple sculpture.
"It's part leisure part work," he says backstage, clutching his ponnadai.
When he gets back home Alastair will write two long pieces and blog on his tour.

Dr. Nagaswamy does not miss this one!

Dr. Nagaswamy, archaeologist and scholar is another constant at the Natyanjali. (he is seen on the extreme left in the photo here).

The man who was part of the team which launched this dance fest inside the temple makes it a point to be here at the inaugural.
He steered the fest for over 15 years and then let a new team take over.

Today, he sits at his deal at his home in Besant Nagar, south Chennai and churns out books even at this age.

He released a book in connection with the celebration of 1000 years of Sri Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur.

It is on the best of Chola Art and Nagaswamy says the pictures in it are the best, shot by a collaborator in less than 3 days.
The book is on sale. You can call him at 98141447360.

Nagaswamy is now working on a book on Sanskrit and Thamizh and the connections between the two.

Short and Snappy; the Inauguration

Vaidyanathan, editor of the Thamizh daily, Dina Mani is the chief guest at the inauguration.
He has been starring at many arts events back in Chennai.

Former DGP of Tamil Nadu, Natarajan is also a special guest.

As is the local district collector and the entire Natyanjali Trust team, the group which runs this fest.

Sambandam, secretary says that over 70 performances are scheduled this year, 40 of which are solo recitals.

The Trustees work closely with a team of the Deekshitars.

Every evening, a senior priest is invited on stage to say a few words.

Two others who have always been great supporters are Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and the Annamalai University. Their reps are also on stage.

The Annamalai Univ. date

Two communities are always featured at Chidambaram.
The best local regional dance groups - Chidambaram, Neyveli, Cuddalore and Pondy.
And students of the Dept of Fine Arts at Annamalai University.
The varsity artistes bring with them their little group of fans.
Sadly, the fans leave the moment the recital of their Univ friends.

Drama is 30minutes! From Kovai.

For many dance students, doing the Natyanjali circuit is a journey, an experience.
You shouldn't be surprised if you a van-load of teenagers spilling out on East Street and weaving their way to the stage.

As the nagaswarm closed the opening act of Day One of the Natyanjali to launch the 2012 edition of the dance fest, the troupe of Abhirami Natyalaya was more than just dancers.
Their props were loadsful.

Guru Parimala Venkataraman from Coimbatore brought a hour-long production on Lord Siva.

But squeezing it into 30minutes and then running off to Pandanallur for their second performance on Sivaratri night was a maddening task.

Backstage dancer and makeup artist Sasikumar struggled with masks, hairdos and jewelry to make sure the show went on.

"The music keeps rolling but we are struggling," he says.

And yet, the school and college students were up to the task.

Live on DD. Feb.20 night.

Doordarshan will telecast live three key recitals of the Natyanjali at Chidambaram.
Starts at 10.10 pm ( Feb 20) withj a varnam which has been conceptualised and executed by Nandini Ramani.
It features Priyadarshini Govind, Braga Beseel, Srekala Bharat, Sailaja, Manjari Rajendrakumar and Sushama Ranganathan.

At 10.35 Dr C V Chandrasekar presents a Shiva Astapadi and at 11 pm Dr Neena Prasad and her team from Thiruvananthapuram will perform Mohiniattam.

DD will telecast these three recitals on the Podhigai and the DD Bharathi channels. They go out live.

Rehearse, Eat, Dance

Hospitality is an integral part of the fest at Chidambaram.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided to all who perform and work for the Fest.

A chatram serves as the dining space. It also doubles up as rehearsal space.
On Monday afternoon, students of Abhirami Natyalaya, Coimbatore warm up before lunch.
This group will present a ballet later this evening. 25 of them on stage.

The dining hall is packed. Today, the sapad ends with payasam.

Vageesan and his team serve well - they have been the asthana samayal team of Chidambaram Natyanjali!

New friends and old at Chidambaram

Making friends and reconnecting with others is part of the Natyanjali.

Titus and his wife from Holland are inside the Nataraja Temple and we invite them to the dances this evening.
The couple from Holland are on their 12th annual tour of India and have long connections at Auroville, near Pondicherry.

Elsewhere, on a busy street vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan waves to us as a Deekshitar ferries him to a hotel near the temple. A small local group often hosts a 24-hour long series of kutcheris on the south side of the temple.

Nartaki Nataraj offers a padam to the Lord

Two people greet us at the east gopuram.
A seller of tender coconuts and a flower seller.
Both are familiar faces of the many we see and greet at the Natyanjali.

Monday morn is bright and sunny.
And at the sannidhi zone inside the temple, besides the huge crowd of devotees readying for the 10 a.m. abhishekam, are groups of dancers of ages, excited to offer their prayer to the Lord.

A group from Salem goes through the anjali even as Deekshitars and pilgrims walk past or pause.

Chennai-based dancer Nartaki Nataraj comes by too. She does a padam to the singing of K P Nandini who has been performing for Nartaki for some time now.

Nartaki will be dancing here on stage at about 11.30 tonight to a thevaram.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Chidambaram: Stage is set

We arrive at 9 p.m. at Chidambaram.
Our base for the next five days is Hotel Arudra.
This is a very convenient perch - it is just outside the eastern gopuram of the temple.
Also, the BSNL team at Chidambaram, used now to our requests and needs find it easy to fix our broadband connection.
The line of pilgrims visiting the great temple wanes as we check out the outer yard of the temple, on its eastern side.

Giant plaster-of-paris and fibre glass models of temple pillars, modeled on those you will find in any vintage temple are being placed on the stage.
They look impressive even in the scarce light.  On Monday, when this stage comes alive the props on the stage will possibly impress the artistes and the audience.

The Natyanjali Trust team has always  tried to give this fest a special despite handicaps and limitations.
It needs to - after all, it is the mother of the Natyanjalis!

It is 10 pm and the town is shutting down. Dramatic changes greet us every year. A new hotel, swank in the exterior has come up on East Car Street. Grand Park.
Rooms start at Rs.1500.
(If you need a luxurious room in Chidambaram call 04144-225859).
Our favorite 'mess' on this road is about to close - we have a quick tiffin, meet a doc from Mumbai who loves south Indian food and warns me about my central obesity and call it a day!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

At Nagapattinam; Feb.20 only


Monday, February 20, 2012:
06-30 PM: Nagaraj Bodi
07-15 PM: Padmini Radhakrishnan Mumbai
08-00 PM: N. Balakumar Nagai
08-45 PM: Deepak Venkatesh Kumbakonam
09-30 PM: Rajameenakshi Nagai
10-15 PM: Local Talent
11-00 PM: Local Talent
11-45 PM: Local Talent

Natyanjali at Thirunallar starts on Feb.18


Saturday, February 18, 2012:
06-00 PM Lalitha Ganapathy Chennai
06-40 PM Dr. M.S. Sarala         Karaikudi
07-20 PM Mamatha Karanth Bengaluru
08-00 PM Gayathri & Balagurunathan Chennai
08-40 PM Sheela Ranganathan Chennai
09-20 PM Local Talent
10-00 PM Local Talent

Sunday, February 19, 2012:
06-00 PM S. Shivakumar & Shylaja Chennai
06-40 PM Himaja Ramsharan Chennai
07-20 PM Badari Divya Bhushan & Anjana Mysore
08-00 PM L. Murugashankari Chennai
08-40 PM Bhavajan Kumar         Canada
09-20 PM Local Talent
10-00 PM Local Talent

Monday, February 20, 2012:
06-00 PM Usha Dorai         Malaysia
06-40 PM Deepak Venkatesh Kumbakonam
07-20 PM Radhika Prabhu         Bengaluru
08-00 PM Gayathri Rajaji         Chennai
08-40 PM Geethalakshmi Bengaluru
09-20 PM Dakshayani Ramachandran Chennai
10-00 PM Padmini Radhakrishnan Mumbai
10-40 PM Shama Krishna         Bengaluru
11-20 PM Sanath Kumar Chennai
12-00 AM Local Talent
12-40 AM Local Talent

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Kumbakonam Dance Fest for 3 days

Feb.20 to 22.
These are the dates for the Natyanjali Dance Fest at the Sri Adikumbeswarar Temple in Kumbakonam.
The local team headed by G R Moopanar is hosting the fest.
Actor-dancer Shobana will perform soon after the inauguration at about 7.15 pm.

Padma Subrahmanyam takes a break

Senior dancer Padma Subrahmanyam has been a regular at all the Natyanjali dance fests year after year since the time the fest started in Chidambaram.
This year though she will take a break.

Three deaths in the larger family of this dancer have slowed things down at Padma's home in Chennai.

She and her team have been instrumental in hosting the Sivaratri dances at Nagapattinam, Thirunallar and Mayavaram.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Book your Hotel Room now

If you plan to be at the Natyanjali fests make sure you book a hotel room now.
Most places are on the pilgrim circuit map and getting a room is not all that easy.

Thanjavur now has a variety of hotels but the new ones price their rooms above Rs.1500 plus tax.

Chidambaram has limited offers. The Arudra Hotel ( 04144-221930 ) is just outside the eastern gopuram and a quiet, well maintained nook we like. Akshaya ( 04144-220191) and Sharadaram ( 04144 221336 ) are also good options.

How about Heritage Walks?

Can there be more on offer at the Natyanjali festivals besides dance recitals?

We believe that a festival must have many sides to it if you want to pull rasikas and tourists.

Tamil Nadu Tourism does little than setting up a stall that issues free brochures. If its team was imaginative, it could offer some great tour packages that are two hours long.

Some years ago, we encouraged many dance teams to visit the mangroves of Pitchavaram, 10 kms from Chidambaram and some did make it and came back all excited.

Last week, we suggested to the Festival hosts in Chidambaram and Thanjavur that they host a Heritage Walk/Tour on one morning. A Tour that can take us to a few less known spaces in these towns where a guide who has intimate stories to share would keep us excited.

We hope this happens!

Covering the Natyanjali: you are also invited

Covering the Natyanjali Dance Fest is special.

We have been doing this for about 6 years now and though the ' Bo shambo! ' anthem keeps ringing disturbingly in our ears year after year, we never get bored when we are there.

Often, you get to meet interesting artistes. You get to listen to interesting stories. And this great temple always has secrets to open to you if only you care to slow down and look deep.

Ever since Prem from ChennaiStream became part of our team, the coverage has been enlarged. We also web streamed recitals despite the fact that 2G / broadband is not good enough to do stream videos.

Prem will not be with us this Fest - he is taking care of his Dad who is recuperating from an illness and we will miss Prem.

But we will have R. Revathi with us. Revathi has pulled in all the tech utilities to provide us the capacity to broadbase the coverage. Via Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Picasa and more.

And, we are inviting all of you - artistes, rasikas and tourists - to join us in this community-driven coverage of the Natyanjali.