A tribute to my Guru Padmini Ramachandran (1944-2016)
- Shilpa Nanjappa
January 18, 2016
Guru Padmini Ramachandran was born in Kerala's Mavallikkara on September 8, 1944. She was brought up in Chennai and started learning Bharatanatyam under Pandanallur Chokkalingam Pillai. She went on to learn under Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai and performed her arangetram with his guidance. She sprung to popularity and was scouted by several directors which led to her flamboyant yet brief stint with cinema. Her most noteworthy works were Narthanasala opposite N.T. Rama Rao, Iruvar Ullam opposite Sivaji Ganesan and opposite Raj Kapoor in Dil Hi To Hai where she danced in the popular song "Laaga chunari mein daag." Many more opportunities beckoned her into acting but she gave it all up to pursue her true passion - dance.
She got married to T.K. Ramachandran at a young age and despite having a child as well, she pursued her college education at Ethiraj College and obtained a degree in Zoology. It was after this that she moved to Bengaluru with her family. She always spoke to us about how fate brought her to the state of Karnataka, where she truly dedicated her life to propagate Bharatanatyam. She set up Natyapriya, a premier classical dance institute in the eastern part of the city in 1974. During the initial years, Bengaluru did not have a Doordarshan Kendra, so she personally took two of her star seniors, Rathna Supriya and Rangashree, to Chennai to have them graded. Such was the support she lent to all her students, old and new.
Having strived over 40 years, she was honoured by the government and private organizations alike. She received the Natyarani Shantala Award, Kannada Rajyothsava Award, Karnataka Kalashree and the title Bharatha Shikaram to name a few. She has choreographed innumerable dance ballets. The most popular were Sambhavami Yuge Yuge, Himaswetha, Vittala Darshana, Ashtalakshmi, Durbagobathi Elokeshi, Kitoor Rani Chennamma, Navarasa Gejje, Natyarani Shantala and Koravanji. Over a decade ago she set up her dream project ‘Nrithyakshetra’ upon being granted an acre of land by the State Government. She successfully set up an auditorium and conducted classes till her last days there.
She polished scores of dancers over the years and conducted more than 120 arangetrams. Several students are recipients of government scholarships and awards, are graded artists of Doordarshan, are empanelled with ICCR and have established their own academies of dance all over the world. Some of the gems of Natyapriya are Rathna Supriya, Rangashree, Sridevi Thirumalai, Kanya Tayalia, Navia Natarajan, Kirti Ramgopal, Mithun Shyam, Keerthana Ravi, Priyanka Raghavan, Shruthi Gopal, Sneha Devanandan and many more. She would sit and patiently teach each one of us. She was in tune with each of our dance vocabularies and choreographed for each student according to our strengths. We would watch in awe as she would churn out five different versions of the same Varnam for 5 different students. Even the jathis would be different. We stand today as solitaires in its truest sense, since we all have our individuality which was methodically polished over the years by an expert craftsman - our beloved Ma'am.
To her patrons she was greatness personified. To her three sons Manoj, Dinesh and Prithvijit, and daughter Kanya Tayalia, she was their selfless mum who was ever worried about their well being. To the myriad students she leaves behind she was the most dynamic one who could get anything done. To the art connoisseurs she was the vibrant nattuvanar who commanded the ensemble. So many facets to our guru that each of us could write a book on her. Every conversation with her would have some sparkle to it. Every minute with her would brighten us up. Words cannot express the loss we feel with her passing on 17th January 2016. We pray for her soul and seek everyone's blessings as we step into tomorrow with the burning torch of Guru Padmini Ramachandran's legacy.
On behalf of the Natyapriya family.
Shilpa Nanjappa is a disciple of Guru Padmini Ramachandran and is based in Coorg.
Guru Padmini Ramachandran was a representation of energy, enthusiasm and creativity. She loved dancing so much, she saw it in every walk of her life. She was very adventurous through out her life. I happened to work with her in her "Hima Shwetha" - probably very first Kannada dance drama television serial, may be the last one too. She brought out the beautiful story through classical dance technique very well. Many main major dancers of current times such as Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Navia Natarajan, Rangashree and many others owe their learning to her. Her nattuvangam and Jahnavi's singing was a great combination and scintillated audience. She was an amazing teacher with great technique.
You left your legacy through your students. We will miss you dearly. Rest in peace, madam.
- Prasanna Kasthuri (Jan 20, 2016)
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