Prof. CK Balagopalan, dancer and former teacher at Kalakshetra, Chennai, passed away on August 24, 2019 at Chennai. Born in 1939 in Cheruvattur village in North Malabar district of Kerala, Balagopalan was initiated into stage-acting by his father P. Koman Nair, a well-known actor of Kerala. When he was 13, he joined Kalakshetra with a Government of India Scholarship. He studied Bharatanatyam under the guidance of Rukmini Devi Arundale and trained in Kathakali under Guru T.K. Chandu Panicker. Balagopalan excelled in donning female roles in Kathakali. He danced in almost all the productions of Kalakshetra doing justice to any character he portrayed. Despite his short stature, he was most famous for his role as Hanuman for which he prepared with abstinence and purification rituals. For decades, Balagopalan was one of the star performers at the annual Kalakshetra Art Festival. He trained a number of students and retired as Professor of Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra in 2000. His disciple Eliza Louis has penned a fascinating biography of this outstanding dancer and dance guru titled ‘Leap of Faith: Mesmeric Hanuman of Kalakshetra.’ Balagopalan received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Bharatanatyam.
Eminent educationist, founder of the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (founded in 1958) group of schools, journalist and cultural ambassador, Mrs. Y.G.Parthasarathy (Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy also known as Rashmi), passed away in Chennai on August 6, 2019. She was 93. In 1987, she started Bharat Kalachar, a cultural organization that identified young talent in music, dance and other arts and gave them a platform. Bharat Kalachar was started by her to promote and create a cultural awareness and appreciation of our classical fine arts and traditional folk arts especially among youth, to provide Art Education and Value Education through performing arts, to give scholarship and awards to young students in recognition of their talent in the field of fine arts and to conduct seminars, workshops, lec-dems, conferences in the field of Fine Arts by eminent artistes. Despite being in a wheelchair in her advanced age, Mrs YGP attended many programs and always said a few words to encourage the artistes. She received the Padma Shri in 2010.
Bharatanatyam Guru Hemamalini Arni (1934-2019) passed away peacefully in Hyderabad on July 20, 2019 aged 85. Hemamalini was a disciple of Guru Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai; she learnt her abhinaya and padams from Mylapore Gowriamma and T. Balasaraswathi. Along with her dance she trained in Carnatic music from Mayavaram Krishna Iyer and Maharajapuram Viswantha Iyer. She has conducted around 50 arangetrams in the last 25 years and trained innumerable dancers.
Senior Kuchipudi dancer and Guru Sumathi Kaushal passed away on July 15, 2019.
Eminent makeup artiste Kanakaraj passed away on June 17, 2019 at Bangalore, aged 60. He served exclusively in the field of dance for about 40 years as makeup man. He was almost a permanent makeup man of Natya Institute of Dr.Maya Rao and Prabhat Kalavidaru. Most of the dance schools in the city availed the services of Kanakaraj. He has done makeup for hundreds of arangetrams. He also has to his credit doing makeup for Sudha Chandran and many other internationally acclaimed dancers. Above his perfect professionalism, he was a humble human being with great respect for elders and Gurus. His presence will be missed.
Girish Raghunath Karnad (19 May 1938 - 10 June 2019) was an actor, film director, writer, playwright and a Rhodes scholar. He passed away in Bangalore due to age related ailments.
Bharatanatyam Guru Jamuna Krishnan, Director, Kalangan Centre for Classical Arts in New Delhi (established in 1991), and mother of dancer Ragini Chandershekar, passed away on May 15, 2019. Born on March 12, 1943, she was a celebrated and revered Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, scholar, researcher and choreographer of Bharatanatyam. Jamuna Krishnan was a disciple of Guru K.J. Govindarajan and Kalanidhi Narayanan. She is known for widening the vocabulary of Bharatanatyam, her unique contribution being incorporating regional poetry into Bharatanatyam, especially compositions based on bhakti literature of North India like the poetic works of Vidyapati, Surdas, Meera, Kabir etc. A striking feature of her choreographic works is that all the music composition and dance choreography has been done by her. Jamuna’s thought provoking research papers have added new dimensions in the Bharatanatyam thought process. As a revered teacher for over 4 decades, she has taught several dancers and choreographers, who are well-established teachers in their own right today.
More info: https://kalangandance.com
Hyderabad based Sathiraju Venumadhav, an extraordinary concert musician, an amazing composer and a dancer’s musician, passed away on April 23, 2019 aged 46. He was greatly admired for his talent and simplicity.
Sathiraju Venumadhav, a disciple of D. Raghavachary (Hyderabad Brothers), was a classical singer who has also widely composed for dance. Venumadhav took great pains to sing with the right diction, and to evoke the appropriate bhava and rasa of every composition. In 2010, he released a CD Annamayya Pada Mandakini in which 108 kirtanas of Annamayya were composed and sung by him. Accomplished dancers of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi styles have performed to these compositions. He was known for his diction, resonant voice and sense of grammar in singing the nuances of classical music. Venumadhav had been given the rare honour of singing Annamayya’s Dasavatara Suladi in the original notation of Annamayya as found in the Tirumala Music Inscriptions engraved on stone slabs at the Tirumala hill, Tirupati. He has composed for many dancers including late Uma Rama Rao and was the vocalist/composer for Ananda Shankar Jayant’s productions.
Veteran Odissi vocalist and composer Rakhal Mohanty passed away in Cuttack, Orissa, on April 14, 2019 after a prolonged illness, aged 88. He was a prominent composer for Odiya films as well as for Odissi dance. He gave vocal accompaniment to Odissi dancers Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kumkum Mohanty and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in the 1970s. His Odissi vocal rendering of 'Shankarabharanam Pallavi' and Odiya abhinaya 'Toh Lagi Gopa Danda' by Bhubaneswar Mishra are well known. He was music composer for Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's 'Konark' dance production.
Kartik Chandra Rath, playwright, promotor of the arts, and organizer of festivals, passed away in Cuttack, Odisha on April 1, 2019. He was 70.
Kuchipudi dancer and writer Bhavanvitha Venkat, disciple of Guru Bala Kondala Rao, succumbed to a cardiac arrest on March 28, 2019. Professionally a finance advisor for corporates, he had an unparalleled passion for Kuchipudi, was a supporter of Kuchipudi artistes, a champion for the cause of Kuchipudi and expressed great concern for the future of the dance form. He was a regular contributor to narthaki.com. His presence and voice will be sorely missed.
Born on 22 April 1948, Kathak guru Pt Vijai Shankar, a disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj, passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 16, 2019. He also trained in tabla under Khalifa Ghulam Hussain Khan. He went to Kolkata and married the daughter of legendary tabla maestro Kishan Maharaj. Vijai Shankar taught at Padatik of Shyamanand Jalan and Chetna Jalan. Since the 1960s, he performed lead roles in many dance dramas choreographed by Birju Maharaj for Kathak Kendra. Vijai Shankar trained many young Kathak dancers at his Shankar's Kathak Dance Research Centre, in Kolkata and Varanasi. He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Kathak dance. He was a brilliant dancer, an excellent teacher and a gentle soul.
More info: https://www.classicalclaps.com
Kathak Guru Ganesh Hiralal Hasal passed away on March 15, 2019.
Prof D Pasupathi, Carnatic musician and music composer from Kalakshetra, passed away on February 26, 2019. He was one of the prominent Kalakshetra alumni and favourite of Rukmini Devi who used to conduct all her Bharatanatyam performances and natya natakams before he became the principal of the Thirupati Venkateswara College of Music. After retirement, he came back to Kalakshetra as the institution's Vice Principal. A highly respected vidwan, he received several coveted awards including Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Sangeeta Kala Acharya honour from Madras Music Academy. His wife Jayalakshmi, also a Kalakshetra alumni who died a few years earlier, was a strong support to him.
Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancer Gina Lalli (born on July 14, 1929) died on 16 February 2019 in Austin, Texas, after an extended illness. She was 89.
Kathakali artiste Chavara Parukutty passed away on February 7, 2019. She was known for making her mark in a male dominated field and specially for her depiction of female roles in Kathakali.
M.N. Sarma, the co-founder editor of Nartanam quarterly magazine, passed away on January 15, 2019. He had been ailing for the past few months. Sarma was an eminent theatre personality and an academician.