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Dhananjayan uvaacha!

December 31, 2014

(Inaugural keynote address by Bharatanatyam Guru V.P. Dhananjayan at the Natya Kala Conference on Dec 26, 2014 in Chennai)

It gives me immense pleasure to inaugurate the 34th Natya Kala Conference. One of its kind, it is a landmark in the annals of Chennai December season and running this much sought after conference successfully for 34 years is no mean task. We should all appreciate and congratulate Sri Krishna Gana Sabha for organizing this event of international stature. A brainchild of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and supported and nurtured by Sri Yagnaraman, the Natya Kala Conference helped to raise the standard of performing arts and its theoretical and theatrical aspects. Artistes, connoisseurs and critics from all over the globe have benefited immensely by attending these educative sessions conducted by various scholars and men of letters.

The printed books of Natya Kala Conference deliberations are records for posterity, and if we can combine all of them, will serve as manuscript for a new Natya Sastra. I am sure there may be a few people in this audience who have been attending NKC regularly for 34 years (I am one of them) and will cherish the benefits they imbibed from this educative and enlightening conference.

This year's convener Dr. Swapanasundari is not only a great performer, but also known for her erudite scholarship in all aspects of natya. A general comprehensive subject or title for this year's conference is "Knowing again." Like any subjects of science, Natya Sastra is also a profound subject that has endless nuances to be studied and researched. Over the years the conveners have introduced to the delegates from all around the world so many varieties of performing arts and making knowledge seekers realize that ancient Bharateeya Natya Sastra is actually a reference book for all world dance.

I am also very privileged to honour my colleague Balagopal. Both us walked into the portals of Kalakshetra together in the year 1953. We were Rama - Lakshmana in Rukmini Devi's Ramayana series. He got promoted to various great characters in Ramayana; I had to remain as Sri Rama forever. In brief, Balagopal immortalized all the characters he played in Kalakshetra productions, whether it was a main one or a small insignificant role.

Kalamandalam Kshemavathi took Mohiniattam to new heights adding her own charm and scholarship to the idiom and her name is now almost synonymous with Mohiniattam. I take pride in conferring the award to Kshemavathi on behalf of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. I take this opportunity to congratulate in advance, Leela Venkataraman, Dr. Sunil Kothari and Nandini Ramani for being honoured by Krishna Gana Sabha on December 30th.

My keynote address will not be complete if I don't make some useful remarks, as I am known for forthright open speeches and I don't want to miss this opportunity to tell you those valid points to ponder. First of all, let me thank Mr. Pabhu for eschewing the term 'dance festival' and replacing it with Nritya Utsav. Probably next year he could make it a comprehensive word Naatyotsavam which encompasses all kinds of classical forms of arts. Thank you, Prabhu, for taking my suggestions.

I have been harping on the need to popularize the word natya in place of 'dance' and I am glad it is catching up with people and critics - a positive trend in internationalizing our performing arts in our own language. Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, etc. should be known to the world in their original, regional names only. There is no need for translating them to English word "dance." Some of our institutions and artistes refer to a production as ballet, misleading people to think that they are presenting a western ballet. Please try to change the usage of 'ballet' to our natya presentations by calling it natya or dance drama.

We often see organizations and natya schools advertising as Bharatanatyam Dance School. Bharatanatyam school is enough. Some are addressed as 'Dance Guru' which is absurd and meaningless. First of all, the word Guru has a deeper connotation and this should not be misused liberally on teachers of all kinds. Instead, please try to use 'Acharya' and do not prefix the profound Guru to the name of all and sundry.

Another blatant grammatical mistake our MCs make is to announce as 'natya recital.' Natya is a performance, a vocal or oral delineation is a recital. So we should say Bharatanaatyam performance and vocal concert /recital. These are simple points to remember and correct.

With a positive note I conclude that our presentational standard of performing arts have improved in leaps and bounds. The younger generation of artistes are very creative and presenting beautiful new productions in natya opening up our vision to a new world of natya kala for the next generations to come.

As Natya Sastra quotes: Bhavishyathaschalokascha sarvakarmaanusaadhakam
Natya benefits the future generations to come...

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