With old songs, new dances and little-known anecdotes, a tribute to MS Subbulakshmi
For most of us, music is the only dimension by which we know MS Subbulakshmi. But on the singer’s centenary, her grand niece, writer-director Gowri Ramnarayan, would like to give us a peek into a lesser-known side of her—as a lover of dance. Not only did Subbulakshmi do a photo series of abhinayas for a Tamil song, Kandathundo kannan pol, written for her by Kalki Krishnamurthy, the poet and freedom fighter (and Ramnarayan’s grandfather), but she also taught abhinaya to her step-daughter Radha and Ramnarayan’s mother, Anandhi. “That was a time of cultural renaissance, when people felt that bharatnatyam was not something immoral,” begins Ramnarayan. “In the 1930s, my grandfather and Subbulakshmi’s husband, T Sadasivam, decided their daughters must study it. And Subbulakshmi sang for them.”
With information gleaned from family albums and conversations with her mother, Ramnarayan has picked five songs associated with Subbulakshmi and dance—ranging from Bharati to Kambar—to create an evening of dance, poetry and memories. “We aren’t recreating anything; we are just remembering her through this performance, titled Malai Pozhudinile (Twilight Dream). Priyadarsini Govind will dance, Nisha Rajagopalan will sing, and I will begin each performance with a small narrative—explaining the song and sharing anecdotes to show how deeply she was influenced by dance,” she says. Simple and straightforward, Ramnarayan insists the performance “is from our hearts” and hopes it will help revive an interest in “our art history and throw light on that period of renaissance”.
Tomorrow, at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, from 7 pm. Details: 24643420
—Surya Praphulla Kumar