Responses to The Padma Awards
e-mail: arangham@gmail.com


Feb 10, 2010

Dear Ms. Anita,

I have been reading and appreciating your remarks on dance, dancers and awards (national and otherwise). I am sure you would have received many kinds of responses. My response is probably neutral. While I completely agree with you on the fact that doyens of Bharatanatyam like Chandrashekar sir have still not been recognized by the Government, I have a thought in my mind. While mentioning 'doyens,' you have only referred to dancers based in the south (Chennai, Bangalore etc.). No doubt, you had appreciated performances of Geeta Chandran, Rama Vaidyanathan, Hari Krishnan and Srividya Natarajan last time. But why is there a regional bias when you are referring to doyens and scholars in the field of art? Are all doyens based only in the south? In my little experience with music and dance, I have come across so many scholars in different geographical locations within (Bhopal, Pune, Nagpur, Dehradun, Calcutta) and outside India. However, they are not even close to being recognized. Chennai sabhas do not even regard young dancers, who are disciples of such Gurus, as they feel that such dancers still have a long way to go, even without looking at their credentials. Being a dancer from Delhi, I haven't heard of Devayani either ;-). But that does not mean that other dancers based in Delhi or other North Indian regions are not worth any recognition. I know of very sincere artists based in Northern India. However, they do not get any opportunity to perform in Chennai sabhas.

This makes me raise another question - is it important for Bharatanatyam dancers to belong to Chennai or perform in Chennai sabhas to be recognised? Is that the only criteria for recognition? Many dancers from north may not do so as it is very expensive to perform in Chennai, considering the poor payment given by sabhas (especially for young dancers). Not every dancer can afford a yearly travel to Chennai for performances. I do not see any point in doing so, as the audience would only comprise friends and family of the dancer in Chennai, if he or she has any.

These dancers may be actively performing in festivals in North India and abroad, but how is that known to dancers in the south? This is the reason why, when Delhi based dancers get a National award, it causes discomfort to other scholars in the field. I respect each and every Guru in the south of India, but I would like to mention that it takes a lot for Bharatanatyam dancers in the north, to establish a school and train disciples in a region where the language, culture and customs are totally different from the south.

Geeta Chandran and Rama Vaidyanathan are the best examples of performers from Delhi. They are excellent. However, they are recognised only because of their performances in leading sabhas in Chennai. What about many known Gurus in Delhi - like Jayalakshmi Eshwar? She deserves every national award and recognition for the services that she is doing towards the field of Bharatanatyam. But nobody even comments about her not receiving a single national award.

Also, it is just a matter of chance that Government bodies are based in Delhi and they are able to see and recognise the services of dancers based in the North Indian regions. I do not want to comment about whether these procedures are authentic in every case, but my point is that no matter what the region of the dancer is, any dancer or guru who is sincere and has done great service to the field of dance should be recognised..

Speaking about scholars, I have always wondered why critics of dance, dance writers and researchers, have never received a Padma award. We have veterans like (Late) TS Parthasarathy, (Late) Subbudu, and Leela Venkataraman who have not received a single national award, in spite of serving the dance and music community for years. Critics also need to be recognised as much as dancers.

Best regards,
Snigdha Venkataramani



Feb 26, 2010
Dear Ms. Ratnam,

I agree to some of the points the person has raised. However, I disagree with:

1. At the outset she says she is neutral. If she was truly neutral she wouldn't have wrote about the bias in the first place! So, she is taking a stand for the lack of padma awards to many senior gurus, which is entirely a valid argument. So, in my view she is supporting the need of more padma awards to deserving artists and she should be clear on this.

2. She says "is it important for Bharatanatyam dancers to belong to Chennai or perform in Chennai sabhas to be recognised? Is that the only criteria for recognition? Many dancers from north may not do so as it is very expensive to perform in Chennai, considering the poor payment given by sabhas (especially for young dancers). Not every dancer can afford a yearly travel to Chennai for performances. I do not see any point in doing so, as the audience would only comprise friends and family of the dancer in Chennai, if he or she has any."

I for one to some extent disagree with her on this. Although there is favoritism prevalent in sabhas, there are many artists who are not from chennai and perform and get rasikas to enjoy the art. There are venues that do not charge higher fees for an artist to perform. It depends on how much one values a particular place and particular audiences to perform. If it can take place in a temple (which do not charge hefty fees) where the common person can sit and enjoy, I guess that would be ideal as Bharatnatyam is a temple dance. The message reaches the mass. The artist needs to be satisfied with her art form, not satisfied with only praises and compliments, which one usually gets at family gatherings.

3. She considers gurus like Geeta chandran, Rama Vaidyanathan and other Delhi based artists as successful, since they perform in leading sabhas in Chennai. I think the writer needs to read more and expand her thinking. As an example, I can quote what Geeta Chandran thinks of Chennai sabhas from this interview. To quote her "While I have may have had some advantages by being based in Delhi, I have had my share of disadvantages too organizations in Chennai seem to see me as from another planet! " (Source:http://www.malayalifriendsgroup.org/E-zine_feb/geeta_interview.html published in February). Forget being from the same country, she is treated like an alien. I think this is a common perception of "The grass is greener on the other side." There is no solution to this perception as well. I am sure there are many artists who had faced the same issues like her!!!

4. She says, "I do not want to comment about whether these procedures are authentic in every case, but my point is that no matter what the region of the dancer is, any dancer or guru who is sincere and has done great service to the field of dance should be recognised." Although the magnanimous aim of the writer is appreciated, one cannot refrain from the selection procedures that the committee undertakes to decide the award. To most extent, the committee's decision always makes headlines due to political interference even if there are few based on merit. It might sound oxymoronic, by saying that the selections wouldn't improve in the future, by assumption of politics.

In contrast, I completely agree on recognizing the efforts of critics who make sure that the engine of Bharatanatyam is running and keeping a tab on any derailment.

Ragothaman M Yennamalli



March 2, 2010

Mr. Ragothaman,
I have a few clarifications to make on your argument.

1. Why would I not be neutral? I have completely supported the argument of Ms. Ratnam that many recognized dancers and gurus are not getting National recognition. My only disagreement was her use of the word "Chennai" in referring to dance veterans. There are still many dancers all over India who are scholars and deserve national recognition. I have, in fact, supported dancers from the South in the fact that because many Government bodies are in the Capital city, the dancers based there are easily recognized while many deserving dancers in other regions are not. Doesn't this prove that my views are neutral? I have also ended my argument by saying that no matter what region the dancers belong to, anyone who is sincere and has done great service to the field must be recognized. I think it was clearly mentioned in my argument.

2. You have completely provided a different interpretation to my statements. Firstly, I HAVE NOT SPOKEN A WORD AGAINST SABHAS IN CHENNAI. I have not even spoken about favoritism, or sabhas demanding money from dancers. All I have said is that the poor payment given BY THE SABHAS TO THE DANCERS (especially the young, up and coming dancers) is not enough for dancers coming from the north or other regions of India, as they have issues of travel, boarding, lodging and other expenses. These cannot be met by the performance payment given to them by sabhas. Please read my statement carefully.

Also, I did not say that this stops all dancers of other regions of India from performing in Chennai. Performing in the December Season is a dream come true for dancers all over the world. All I said was that there are many who are successful in their own regions, but are unable to afford an annual travel to Chennai for performances. This is a logistic issue for both sabhas and the dancers. These dancers are therefore not recognized in Chennai. So, whether they perform in Chennai or not, they are successful in their respective regions. Yes, audience is important for a performance. Many of these young dancers from other regions of India are unable to get audience in Chennai unless they have family and friends there.

Also, there was no mention of dancers valuing a particular venue over a temple. I have just mentioned in general the logistic issues faced by artists. I completely agree that temples are the best venues for dancers to show their talent and also to provide a spiritual offering to the almighty in the form of their dance.

3. Regarding Ms. Geeta Chandran's argument - I had just mentioned her as an example of two of the successful performers from Delhi who are known in Chennai as they perform there as well. There are many successful dancers from Delhi, young or old, who, due to logistic issues, are unable to go. Ms. Chandran is a successful dancer. I did not even say that her success is because of her Chennai performances. What she has mentioned in her interview is her personal opinion on the attitude of sabhas towards her. That does not mean that she is not getting performances in Chennai or that she does not choose to perform in Chennai.

Please read my statement carefully. "Geeta Chandran and Rama Vaidyanathan are the best examples of performers from Delhi. They are excellent. However, they are recognised only because of their performances in leading sabhas in Chennai."

4. I did not comment about Government procedures as
a) I am not aware of the procedures. What comes in the media is the opinion of few people on the procedures. What happens in the Government is known only to the Government.
b) I am thankful to the Government for some recognition to people in the field of performing arts in a country where other fields are taking prominence. National recognition from Government for artists is very important for the continuity of the field. After all, India is known for its cultural heritage.

There can be a better system of recognizing deserving artists all over India.

5. You will be glad to know, as I was, that veteran critic Leela Venkataraman has been given the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for her overall contribution to performing arts. Well deserved, indeed.

Snigdha Venkataramani


The Padma Awards