These budding dancers need our help
- G. Ulaganathan

February 5, 2016

Melattur is a small hamlet about 20 km west of Thanjavur town in Tamil Nadu. It is also well known as the home of Bhagavatha Mela natya natakam which is performed over nine nights every year in the month of May. This hamlet, surrounded by green paddy fields, is home to not more than about 5000 people that include artistes who perform Bhagavatha Mela traditionally.

Apart from this, Melattur is also witnessing a surge in interest in learning Bharatanatyam among its people and also those from nearby villages. On a recent visit to this hamlet, I saw at least 35 to 40 children of all age groups arriving at the house of S. Natarajan, the man who has put Bhagavatha Mela on the world cultural map by continuously organising this nine-night long festival without much help from either the corporates or the government.
Natarajan, who is himself a well trained dancer, teacher and actor, has taken a keen interest in imparting basic Bharatanatyam lessons to these children. Natarajan says that, “They come after school hours, most of them from very poor families and not exposed to city life and any other forms of entertainment. They come two or three days in a week and stay with me during evenings and learn to dance. Now they have shown tremendous promise and are fully dedicated to learning dance.”

I found them so immersed in the art and lessons being given by Natarajan, that they were not even distracted by a stranger entering the dance hall. “Many of them are children of small time farmers and daily wage earners and can’t afford to buy dance costumes or jewellery.  This year, they would be performing on stage on May 20 and it would be a sort of arangetram for them. I am requesting dancers and dance gurus to kindly donate dance costumes and artificial jewellery - even used ones - which these children would gratefully adorn and dance on stage,” says Natarajan.

Well, who knows there may be a couple of prima donnas in the making and looking at their skill, dedication and passion, some of them are sure to make it big and keep the flag of Melattur flying high.

Those who would like to join in helping out these children can contact:
S. Natarajan in Melattur: + 91 9443127000 / 
His daughter Priyamvadha in Bangalore: +91 9449444300
Or me in Bangalore: +91 9845047964 

G. Ulaganathan is a senior writer and journalist based in Bangalore.