MADAMANA SANKARAN EMBRANTHIRI (84), first Guru of Puthumana Govindan Namboothiri, thidambu nritham (700 year old Kerala temple dance form) exponent, passed away on December 20, 2021 at Neeleswaram, Kasaragod district, Kerala.
Based in London, pioneering stage artiste ALAKNANDA SAMARTH, who popularly portrayed the landmark role of Miss Julie when she was 19, passed away on December 6, 2021. She had worked with some of the pioneers of modern Indian theatre such as Ebrahim Alkazi and Satyadev Dubey. She collaborated with visual artist Nalini Malani, filmmaker Kumar Shahani, and taught students of National School of Drama and the Trichur School of Drama.
Bharatanatyam Guru Ranganayaki Jayaraman passed away on December 1, 2021 at 10.55pm in Chennai.
Sri Saraswathy Gana Nilayam Trust (SGN) was founded in 1939 by K. Lalitha to impart training in Bharatanatyam, veena, and vocal music to the children in the Triplicane neighborhood of Chennai. Ranganayaki Jayaraman took over the leadership of the school after the demise of K. Lalitha. The institution now focuses on Bharatanatyam and many SGN students now run their own Bharatanatyam schools. She is specially known for her group choreography and dynamic nattuvangam. Her popular group productions include: Lalitha Prabhavam, Deiveega Vahanangal, Shakthi Prabhavam, Navarasa Nayaki, and Bhakthiyin Shakthi.
Ranganayaki was also well-versed in Carnatic vocal, veena, flute, harmonium and mridangam. She was a graded veena artist in All India Radio and has composed some popular veena ensembles, such as ‘Pancha Tala Priya Malika’ and ‘Pancha Raga Oudava Malika’ for Doordarshan TV. In July 2008, she led the 70th anniversary celebrations of Sri Saraswathy Gana Nilayam Trust in Chennai.
Ranganayaki Jayaraman received a number of awards and honours for her contribution to Bharatanatyam as a dancer and teacher. She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2018, Nrithya Ratnakara by Cleveland Aradhana in 2013, Natya Kalanidhi by ABHAI in 2012, Nritya Rathna by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 2011, Bheeshma Award by Ashram School in 2010, Nrithya Kala Nipuna by Mylapore Fine Arts in 2009, and Kalaimamani in 1995, to name a few.
Kavita Nagpal, theatre critic at Asian Age daily newspaper published from London and New Delhi, passed away on November 23, 2021.
Bharatanatyam dancer and historian based in Amsterdam, Dr. Liesbeth Pankaja Bennink passed away on November 4, 2021. She was 66.
Musician, teacher and presenter SIVASAKTHI SIVANESAN passed away in London, on October 31, 2021. Well known amongst the Indian music and dance fraternity in the UK, she greatly supported the many initiatives of the The Bhavan, London, for many years.
Mumbai based violinist Narayan Parthasarathy passed away after a massive cardiac arrest on the morning of 17th October 2021. He was 53. For more than three decades, Narayan was a professional musician, rendering musical support for several music and dance performances in Mumbai and around the globe.
Joan L Erdman passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 2, 2021. Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Cultural Studies at Columbia College, Chicago and Associate, Committee on South Asian Studies, University of Chicago, Joan was part of those heydays of counter-culture in the 60’s when a range of young scholars devoted themselves to study of India in all her myriad manifestations. Her work focused on cultural policy and performing arts in India.
Kuchipudi Guru VEDANTAM RAMU passed away on August 6, 2021. He was born into a traditional Kuchipudi dance family to Vedantam Raghavaiah (cinema director and producer) and Ramalakshmi at Kuchipudi Village. He learnt from eminent gurus at Siddendra Kala Kshetram in Kuchipudi Village and later from Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai. He will be remembered for his virtuosity in Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam Parampara.
Shashank Shankar (1955-2021), the only son of Sachin Shankar and Kumudini Lele, passed away on August 5, 2021 in Mumbai. He managed the Ballet Unit for Sachin Shankar, and organized several Ballet Festivals in Mumbai where contemporary dance groups from all over India were presented.
Kathakali maestro Nelliyode Vasudevan Namboodiri (1940 -2021) passed away on August 2, 2021.
LH Kazi, cultural director of Nehru Centre, Mumbai, passed away early morning on 20th July 2021. He was 67.
Thane based sets and lighting designer Pathikrit Mukherjee passed away on 27th June 2021.
Mumbai based classical music and Kathak dance mentor, choreographer and composer Pandit Anupam Rai passed away on 27th June 2021. He was 62. He leaves behind his wife Rita, daughter Anurita and son Anuratna, besides several disciples.
Venkat Vempati, the elder son of Guru Vempati Chinna Sathyam, passed away on May 25, 2021. He was 55. He was secretary of Kuchipudi Art Academy founded by his father in Chennai in 1963. He also offered Kuchipudi classes at their house in their ancestral village of Kuchipudi, in collaboration with Krishna University (KRU-Machilipatnam). He launched the ‘Save Kuchipudi’ campaign in 2020 to extend support to dance teachers. Venkat is survived by his dancer wife Srimayi and children Lakshmi Kameswari and Aneesh Venkat.
Kuchipudi Guru DR. CHINTA ADINARAYANA SARMA (born on Aug 2, 1955) passed away on May 24, 2021. A prolific artist hailing from traditional Kuchipudi families of Chintavari Melam, he was a genius nattuvangam artiste with calculative precision, a unique choreographer with a prolific contribution, and researcher. He trained under his father Chinta Radhakrishnamurthy, uncle Chinta Krishnamurthy, P. V. G. Krishna Sarma and Vempati Chinna Sathyam. Chinta Adinarayana Sarma worked within the boundaries of the tradition and improvised stage techniques as early as 1970s and 1980s using magnificent settings. For his choreography of the dance drama ‘Ushodayam,’ the birth story of Jesus Christ, he received his Ph.D in Kuchipudi dance. He started Sri Radhakrishna Kuchipudi Natyalaya in 1983. Some of the awards he received are Natya Visharadha, Deva Parijatham, Natya Vigyan, and Natya Kalanidhi.
Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and mentor GURU B BHANUMATI passed away in Bangalore on May 24, 2021 of Covid related complications. She was trained under legendary gurus K.N Dandayuthapani Pillai, Dr.K.Venkatalakshamma and Kalanidi Narayanan. She was the founder director of Nritayakalamandiram in Bangalore. Bhanumati was a recipient of senior fellowship of ministry of human resources development for pursuing higher levels in group choreography where she broke new grounds in both classical content, aesthetic appeal and overall impact. She was a dance icon especially for her ensemble choreographies that were eye catching, graceful and elegant. She has been honored with the Rajyotsava Award by Govt of Karnataka (2001), Karnataka Kalashree, Natyakala Tapasvini, Shreshta Kala Pracharak, Chanakya Kautila award, Aryabhata Award etc.
B Bhanumati: Her art reflected her beauty
- Jyothi Raghuram
'Bhanu aunty had a magical connection with everyone'
- Praveen Kumar
K.Vijaya, one of the early students of Shankarananda Kalakshetra, succumbed on the morning of May 13, 2021 to Covid, after a 20 day hospitalisation. Hers was the 3rd arangetram of the institution in April 1984. She was also part of some of Shankarananda Kalakshetra's early productions.
Akhila Bharatha Kuchipudi Natya Kalamandali Secretary, Kuchipudi Guru, promoter of Kuchipudi and a dedicated academic, PASUMARTHI KESAVA PRASAD passed away in Kuchipudi Village on the morning of May 7, 2021.
Born in 1952, he hailed from a traditional Kuchipudi dance family. His father Subramanya Sastry was known for female personification roles in Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and his grandfather was famous Kuchipudi Yakshaganam artiste Vedantam Ramakrishnaiah. Kesava Prasad received his training from Vedantam Parvateesam, P.V.G. Krishna Sarma and Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. He had a stint as a dance assistant in Sri Siddhendra Kalakshetram from 1978 to 1983. He enacted various roles in Kuchipudi Yakshaganam like that of Aniruddha, Lord Krishna, Madhavi, Indra, Chandamarkulu, Banasura, Balichakravarthi among others.
He was an integral part of the entourage of famous Kuchipudi Yakshaganam artists like Vedantam Rattaiah Sarma, Dr. Chinta Ramanadham, Pasumarthy Venkateswara Sarma, Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, and Dr. Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma. Kesava Prasad had dedicated his life to Kuchipudi dance and his demise is a great loss to Kuchipudi.
Jacques d’Amboise, who shattered stereotypes about male dancers as he helped popularize ballet in America and became one of the most distinguished male stars at New York City Ballet, died on May 2, 2021 at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.
Bala Lal, wife of late Kathak maestro Pt Durgalal, passed away on May 2, 2021. She was 68.
Dancer Ramu Kanagal, the founder of Kanagal Nrithyalaya in Bangalore, passed away of Covid on April 28, 2021. He was 53.
Bharatanatyam exponent, theatre person and acclaimed choreographer Swagata Sen Pillai passed away from Covid complications on April 26, 2021. She has choreographed over two dozen dance-dramas and a number of traditional classical items in ten different Indian languages. Her institution Kinkini Dhvani established in 1991 in the precincts of Uttara Guruvayoorappan Temple in Mayur Vihar, is one of the most prominent centers for excellence in Kalakshetra style Bharatanatyam in the NCR. Fluent in eight languages, Swagata Sen Pillai had over 20 years of dynamic work experience as a development sector professional.
L Sabaretnam - Director and Chairman of Chennai Super Kings Cricket Ltd, Former Chairman of Chettinad Cement Corporation, independent director on the board of Indian Oil Corporation and Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd., former President of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Chennai) and Kartik Fine Arts - passed away on April 25, 2021 in Chennai after a brief illness. He was 80.
Hindustani classical vocalist Pt Rajan Mishra, a legend of Indian classical music, passed away from Covid complications on April 25, 2021 at a Delhi hospital. He was 70. Along with his brother Sajan Mishra, he was one of the foremost exponents of khayal gayaki. The brothers belong to the Banaras gharana.
V. Krishnan, husband of late dance guru Jamuna Krishnan and father of dancer Ragini Chandershekar, passed away on April 25, 2021 at Delhi.
Veteran critic Sunil Mishr of Bhopal passed away on April 23, 2021.
"His eagerness to learn, his exquisite command over Hindi, his extremely sensitive take on issues and his aesthetic reactions to the creative process was truly daunting. And his command over cinema, theatre, literature, philosophy, dance and music was of heroic proportions," says Geeta Chandran.
Mumbai based dance critic Bhanu Kumar passed away on April 20, 2021 after a brief illness. Her service to the arts, her unbiased writings and reviews, bringing classical dance and music to mainstream media and her constant support and encouragement was an invaluable contribution and she leaves a huge void that’s hard to be filled. A multi-faceted personality, she was also a script writer, director and stage actor. She is survived by her son Karthik and dancer daughter Sukanya Kumar.
V.S. Amarnath Sury, Secretary of Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, passed away on 2nd April 2021. He was 79.
Mridangam maker Palakkad Parameswaran passed away on March 25, 2021 aged 58.
LAXMIPRIYA MOHAPATRA, wife of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, passed away at her residence in Bhubaneswar due to age related ailments on 20th March 2021 at 11.10pm. She was 93 (1928-2021).
Starting her dancing career at an early age at the Annapurna Theatre in Puri in 1947, Laxmipriya came in contact with Kelucharan Mohapatra at the Annapurna Theatre 'B' in Cuttack. Though he was an expert in Odissi and Gotipua dance forms, Kelucharan was then performing as a tabla player in the theatre. While working together, Kelucharan began teaching her Odissi dance. They got married in 1947 despite several impediments as the duo belonged to different castes. Later, Laxmipriya quit her profession after family took precedence. A dancer and stage artiste of acknowledged stature, Laxmipriya was the inspiring presence in Kelucharan's life.Their togetherness stemmed from 1946 when she danced at Annapurna 'B' theatre to his fluent and pleasing support on the mardala and other drums. Invariably, whenever Laxmipriya performed on stage, Kelucharan accompanied her on percussion. Laxmipriya benefited from Kelubabu's ideas on dance, choreography and stagecraft, and she saw to it that, in his grim struggle to eke out a bare existence, every affordable comfort was made available to him.
In the early part of her life, Laxmipriya absorbed from her rural surroundings, an interest in the expressional Arts - dance, music, theatre. Hailing from Khurda, Laxmipriya and her mother opted to stay in Puri where the young Laxmipriya was introduced as a dancer in Annapurna 'A' group by Bauribandhu Mahanty. She travelled with the theatre group, to remote villages, towns and every tribal district of Orissa; her reminiscences about these tours abounded in lively anecdotes about people, tribal dance and costumes, rural methods of conveying ideas, phraseology and many other points of interest. Her powers of observation were sharp, and her sense of humour abundant. Her teachers in acting and dance were, in those days, the venerable Ram Mania, Kashinath Sahu, Lakshmidhar Patra and Lingraj Nanda, who were all hard taskmasters. She blossomed into a fine stage artiste and from the time she made her debut as 'Mohini', Laxmipriya mesmerized theatre lovers with her virtuosity and emotive portrayal in a number of dance dramas many of which ran for a 100 days. Her stellar roles made her a most popular stage artiste in the plays 'Manager', 'Aloka', 'Bharasa', 'Ta poi', 'Mulia', 'Kalapahada', 'Jahara' and the 'Dasavatara' sub play in 'Sadhaba jhia' where she performed in tandem with Kelucharan Mohapatra.
Laxmipriya is credited as being the first dancer to perform Odissi on stage! She also acted in important roles in landmark films such as Surya Mukhi, Manika Jodi, Amada Bata and Mala Janha and her histrionic ability was received with great enthusiasm by the Oriya audience of that era. Her decision to continue as a dancer and stage artiste gave the fillip and courage to many middle class Oriya girls to dedicate themselves to Odissi dance. She is fondly addressed as "Guruma." After Kelubabu's demise she functioned as the chief trustee of Srjan.
She is survived by her son Ratikant Mohapatra and family and the entire Srjan parivar.
The great Kathakali legend Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair passed away at the ripe old age of 105 in the early hours of 15th March 2021 at his residence at Cheliya village.
Guru Chemancheri Kunhiraman Nair was born on June 26, 1916 in a farmer's family in a remote village in Malabar. Nair lost his mother when he was only 3 and his father when he was 13. He mastered Kathakali under Guru Karunakara Menon and later Ambu Panicker, Katathanad Ramunni Nair, and Matasseri Kochugovindan Nair. His first role, as a 15-year-old, was that of Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, in a Mahabharata based performance. Later, he started acting the role of Krishna with which he is associated with the most. One of the judges of Kerala court spontaneously prostrated in front of him when he portrayed the Lord's cosmic form. He learnt Bharatanatyam from Kalamandalam Madhavan Nair, Salem Rajarathinam Pillai and Madras Balachandra Saraswati of Saidapet. Kunhiraman Nair had his debut performance at Keezhpayur Kuniyil Paradevatha temple in 1930. He pioneered in fusing Bharatanatyam and Kathakali and choreographed dance dramas with over forty dancers. He served as a dance teacher in a circus company for a couple of years. He founded Bharatiya Natya Kalalayam at Kannur in 1945, which was the first school of dance in north Kerala. He had four significant dance schools on the Western coast of Malabar and also a school theatre program for youth to sustain traditional values.
He was a pioneer in producing dance dramas based on Kathakali and other folk dances of Kerala, especially in the north Malabar area in the name of 'Ballets.' He trained a number of talented poor boys and girls in Kerala. He inspired several naatya practitioners to compose group productions and there was a time when his ballets were an integral part of any temple festival. He was also a proponent of Ashtapadi Attam, another form of dance drama based on the verses of Gita Govindam of poet Jayadeva. Working with Guru Gopinath, Nair also helped in giving shape to Kerala Natanam.
In 2014 at the age of 98, he performed as Parasurama and also gave a performance in full Kathakali attire in the same temple where he first performed nine decades earlier. His last notable public performance was at the age of 100.
This 'wonderman' received some significant awards only in his nineties, which include the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi's Puraskar (1979) and Fellowship (1999), Kerala Kalamandalam Visishta Kala Seva Award (2002), the Kerala Kalamandalam's Kala Ratnam award (2009), and the Sangeet Natak Akademi's Tagore Puraskar (2011). Bharata Ilango Foundation for Asian Culture conferred its first Satabdhi Kalakaraha (artiste of the century) award on him in Dec 2014 when he was 98 years old. He received the Padma Shri in 2017 and Bharat Kalachar honored him with Gnaanakala Bharathi. His autobiography in Malayalam is like a documentation of a century of Kerala culture. This has been edited by Aneesh Kuttan. A documentary film on his life and work is almost ready to be released soon by the Government of India Film Division directed by Kadambari.
Sangkari Balasubramaniam, disciple of Thanjavur Lakshmikaantham and Thanjavur Doraikannammal passed away on February 17, 2021.
Mumbai based senior dance critic Satish Mehta passed away on February 9, 2021. He was 86.
Theater director and founder of Rang Vidushak, a theatre group in Bhopal, Bansi Kaul passed away on February 6, 2021.
Kathakali artiste Mathoor Govindan Kutty passed away on Feb 4, 2021 after a brief illness from post Covid complications. He was 81.
He was born on Oct 5, 1940 in Nedumudi village in Kerala. He received his initial training in Kathakali from Nedumudi Kuttappa Paniker and subsequently studied under Kurichi Kunjan Panicker and Ambalapuzha Shekhan at the Mathoor Kalari. He specialized in Kathakali stree vesham under Kudamaloor Kurunakaran Nair at the Thekkan Chitta Gurukulam. In a career spanning six decades, he portrayed female leads in performances along with Kalamandalam Gopi, Mankulam Vishnu Namboothiri, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, and other prominent artistes. The popular stree vesham characters he portrayed are of Kunthi of Karnasapatham, Damayanthi of Nalacharitham and Panchali of Duryodhana Vadham. Mathoor Govindan Kutty gained wide respect as a teacher and trained a number of Kathakali performers at the Kudamaloor Kalakendra. For his outstanding Kathakali performances, he has been conferred several honours by reputed organizations in Kerala like Kerala Kalamandalam award, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award, Madavoor Vasudevan Nair award, Kerala State Award for the best Kathakali artiste (2011), Guru Chengannoor Award (1993) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Kathakali.