Guru Banamali Maharana, known as the ‘father of Odissi mardala,’ passed away on November 17, 2018 at Bhubaneswar. He was 77. Starting his career as a theatre artiste, Banamali Maharana partnered with Odissi maestro Kelucharan Mohapatra and his disciples, traveling the globe. He founded the Mardala Academy and worked hard to promote mardala from just an accompanying instrument to an independent solo instrument. The academy presents the Tala Vadya Utsav annually from 2002 to give the mardala its due. He was honoured with Upendra Bhanja Samman (2016), Odissi Nrutya Samman (for 2015-16), Sanjukta Panigrahi National Award (2005), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Odissi Music (2004) and Gandharba Kala Samman.
Kathakali thespian Parassini Kunhiraman Nair (born May 3, 1933) passed away on November 13, 2018. He was 85. He was a popular Kathakali artist of Kadathanatan style of Kathakali, who performed different characters on many stages all over the country and at various prestigious temples in Kerala receiving critical acclaim for his work both in Kathi and Vellathadi veshams. He was the lead artist in Parassinikkadavu Muthappan Kathakali Yogam. He taught at Taliparamba Kathakali Sangham for a long time. He received Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2015) at the fag end of his life.
Kothavil Ramankutty (70), a significant name in the making of woodwork of costumes for Koodiyattam, Nangiarkoothu, Krishnanattam, Kathakali and Ottanthullal, passed away on October 27, 2018.
Renowned playwright and theatre artist Na Muthuswamy, artistic director of Koothu-P-Pattarai, the professional, experimental Tamil theatre group, and staunch promoter of the folk arts, passed away in Chennai on October 24, 2018. He was 82 years old. After studying traditional folk theatre for many years, he founded Koothu-P-Pattarai in 1977. Considered the first modern Tamil playwright, he gained prominence after staging the play Kaalam Kaalamaga. Under his direction, KPP staged more than 60 plays - such as England, Appavum Pillaiyum, Six characters in search of an author, Macbeth, Nallaval, Panchali Sabadham among others. KPP has produced several street plays on socially relevant subjects like Women’s literacy, Mother and Child Care, Waste Management, TB Prevention, AIDS Prevention and Care, Rain Water Harvesting, Tsunami etc. Muthuswamy has been described by The Hindu as “the master of the avant-garde.” KPP was identified by UNESCO as one among the five learning centres for theatre. KPP has trained many prominent names like Vijay Sethupathi, Vemal, Pasupathi, Guru Somasundaram, Vinodini, Kalairani to name a few, who have gone on to make a mark in the film industry. Muthuswamy received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999) and Padma Shri (2012).
Uma Sriram, senior disciple of Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam, passed away on July 11, 2018. She was 71.
Rhythm guru of Bharatanatyam, Karaikudi P. Sivakumar passed away in Delhi in the early hours on June 27, 2018 after a brief illness. He was 62 years old. Nephew of mridangam legend Karaikudi Krishnamurthi, Sivakumar is survived by his brothers and sister.
Manipuri dancer and singer, Guru Thokchom Brindashabi Devi, born on 31st March 1934, passed away on June 10, 2018. She was a visiting Guru of Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal, for the subject of Gouranggalila and Sansenba and also president and founder of The All Manipur Gouranggalila and Sansenba Artist Association, Imphal.
Kathak dancer Parveen Gangani passed away on June 2, 2018 in an accident when on holiday in Malaysia. Hailing from a family of dancers belonging to the Jaipur Gharana, he started training under his brother Guru Manish Kumar Gangani and later under the tutelage of Pandit Birju Maharaj. Parveen Gangani also made a name for himself as a tabla, pakhawaj and naal player.
From 2007 to 2010 Parveen taught at the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre in Moscow, where he was sent by ICCR. He founded Kathak Disha Academy of Dance & Music in 1997 in Delhi.
Manipuri dancer & choreographer Lokendrajit Singh passed away on May 18, 2018 in Delhi. Born on Jan 30, 1958 he studied choreography from Natya Institute of Choreography in New Delhi under the directorship of Dr.Maya Rao. He was with Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy in Imphal since 1985 as dancer, and appointed choreographer in 2009. He was also a regular performer at the state Sangai festival since 2011. Wangkhem Lokendrajit Singh choreographed dance-dramas for the production unit of JNMDA including Moirang Sha, Wainupareng, Shakuntala, Hijan-Hirao, Meghnath Bodha and Shradhanjali. He retired as the chief choreographer of JNMDA. He was conferred Manipur State Kala Akademi Award in 2007 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2015.
Renowned Kathak exponent Rani Karnaa passed away peacefully at her home in Calcutta on the morning of 7 May 2018, after ailing for a few months. Mourned by her family, friends, and generations of disciples to whom she was so much more than a guru.
Performing Arts photographer Darial Sneed passed away in NYC on April 8, 2018. A lover of Indian classical dance, she has taken many beautiful performance photographs of Indian classical dancers performing in NYC, especially at the Battery Dance Festival.
Dancer and scholar Anne Marie Gaston, (Anjali) passed away on April 5, 2018. She was also a choreographer, teacher, lecturer, ethnographer and photographer. She first went to India with CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas) and spent over twenty years there, learning with some of the finest teachers and performing. She travelled throughout the subcontinent to experience customs and festivals, to study and photograph monuments and to visit great masters. She trained in Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Chhau, and also learnt to play the pakhavaj. She was the author of the books ‘Bharatanatyam: from Temple to Theater’ (1996), Siva in Dance, Myth and Iconography (Oxford University South Asian Studies Series, 1983) and Krishna’s Musicians: Musicians and Music Making in the Temples of Nathdvara, Rajasthan (1997). Anjali was a pioneer in presenting Indian classical dances across Canada from 1970 onwards, bringing the art of India to all Canadians. She was a Research Associate in the School for Studies in Arts and Culture, Carleton University, and in the Intercultural Research Laboratory, University of Ottawa. She was also an elected fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, London. She was the artistic director of Anjali Academy of Classical Indian Dance in Ottawa, devoted to the teaching and performance of several styles of classical Indian dance.
Manipuri dance Guru Jatindra Singh, retired principal and Professor of Sangeet Bhavan, Viswa Bharati University, passed away on April 3, 2018 in the early hours at Santiniketan, W Bengal.
The mother of Kamala (Kumari Kamala of those days), Rhadha & Vasanthi, passed away on the evening of March 2, 2018.
Kuchipudi guru Pasumarti Sitaramayya is no more (Feb 15, 1927- Feb 9, 2018). Trained by his grandfather Ramanayya, Sitaramayya mastered the techniques on the stage under the expert guidance of guru Vedantam Raghavayya. He also learnt vocal classical music from Yeleswarapu Sitaramanjaneyulu. He was known for his portrayal of female roles of Usha, Sathyabhama and Sashirekha, and his excellent portrayal of Kshetrayya padams. He choreographed several dance dramas. He received the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2004. Some of his notable disciples include Swapna Sundari, Indrani Rehman, Radha Reddy and Sonal Mansingh who studied briefly from him.
Kathakali maestro Madavoor Vasudevan Nair (7 April 1929 – 6 Feb 2018) collapsed in the middle of a Kathakali performance (he was doing the role of Ravana) at Agasthyakod Mahadevi Temple at Anchal in Kollam, Kerala. He was 89. From 1967 to 1977, he worked as a faculty at the Thekkan Kalari (Southern school of Kathakali) of the Kerala Kalamandalam. He was the principal of Kalabharathi in Pakalkkuri near Kottarakkara. A disciple of Guru Chengannur Raman Pillai, he followed the Kaplingadan style of Kathakali of south Kerala. Known for portraying varied types of roles of Pacha (Green), Kathi (knife) and Thadi (beard) characters, Vasudevan Nair concentrated more on anti-hero roles such as Ravana, Duryodhana, Keechaka, Jarasandha, Bana and Kamsa. He has been honored with Padma Bhushan (2011), Kerala Kalamandalam Puraskaram, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1997) and a fellowship from the Central Government, Thulaseevanam Award, Alappuzha Kathakali Club Award, Keraleeya Kalakshetra Award, and Guru Chengannur Memorial Award.
The legendary Ottanthullal artiste Kalamandalam Geethanandan passed away on stage, right in the middle of his performance in Avitatthur Mahavishnu Temple in Irinjalakuda, Kerala, on January 28, 2018. He was 58.
Ottan Thullal play Garuda Garva Bhangam
Multifaceted virtuoso by V. Kaladharan
Kuchipudi Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam’s younger son Vempati Ravi Shankar passed away (Oct 11, 1969 - Jan 23, 2018) after an unsuccessful kidney transplant in Hyderabad. His demise at the young age of 49 is a great loss to the Kuchipudi dance field. Apart from being an outstanding Kuchipudi dancer, Ravi was a singer, composer and choreographer par excellence. He was initially trained by Guru Bala Kondala Rao and later by his father. From 1994 to 2004, Ravi Shankar performed the leading male role in almost all of Kuchipudi Art Academy’s productions, including Shiva in Haravilasam and Ardhanareeswaram, Rama in Ramayanam, Dusyanta in Abhignyana Shakuntalam, and Arjuna in Kirata Arjuneeyam. Known for the fluidity of his movements, sophistication of nritta, fine sense of tala and laya, and spontaneous improvisatiosn, he was an embodiment of grace, and stood out among the artists trained at the Kuchipudi Art Academy. An accomplished vocalist trained by Balamuralikrishna, Ravi Shankar insisted on music training, knowledge of sahithya, apart from talas and ragas for dancers. He belonged to the tenth generation of the illustrious Vempati family that has worked towards spreading awareness on Kuchipudi worldwide.
A. Seshan passed away on January 7, 2018 after a long struggle with cardiac problems. He was 84 years old. He was an ardent follower of music and dance and has contributed articles on these subjects to many magazines and newspapers including narthaki.com. His interest in dance, Carnatic music and classical dances began in his teenage years and he followed his interest with serious study of science and technique of the subjects. Many dancers, musicians and artistes will miss his benign presence at performances in Mumbai.
He was well-versed in music and studied veena under Devakottai Narayana Iyengar. He was a scholar of Tamil and English literature. His son Dr. Ramaswami (Singapore) is married to Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer Dr. Siri Rama. Professionally, he was an Economic Consultant, and was in charge of the Economic analysis and Policy of the Reserve Bank of India. Employed in the IMF he was advisor to the National Bank of Kyrgystan and Bank of Sierra Leone. He wrote extensively on the economic scene and his articles were frequently published in Business Line (The Hindu).
Jayanti Sharma (1924-2018) passed away on January 4, 2018. She was 93. Although ailing for last few years, she led a full life, with her rich artistic contributions as dancer, singer, costume-designer, stage-manager, and a collaborator to late choreographer and her illustrious life partner, Narendra Sharma, Bhoomika Dance Theatre.
Radha Viswanathan (1934 - 2018) passed away in Bangalore on January 2, 2018 aged 83.
The first student of Natyacharya Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai in Bharatanatyam and the daughter / disciple of M S Subbulakshmi, she lived with grace and dignity in the shadow of her powerful mentors. She was one of the last few artistes who was a bridge between two generations in the world of arts and culture.