Nandini Ramani, well-known Bharatanatyam exponent has been nurtured in a rich cultural surrounding, inheriting the legacies of two illustrious personalities, one being her own father, the renowned Sanskrit scholar Dr. V. Raghavan and the other being her teacher, the legendary T.Balasaraswati. Nandini has trained in Carnatic Vocal music with Prof. B. Krishnamurthi; and has specialized in Padam and Javali singing under the legendary T.Mukta of the Veena Dhanammal lineage. As a torch-bearer of a renowned Bharatanatyam tradition, Nandini in her five-decade or artistic career, has performed and taught widely in India and abroad.
As a student of Sanskrit Drama from her early years under the scholarly guidance of her father, Dr. Raghavan, Nandini continues acting and directing Sanskrit plays of Samskrita Ranga, founded by her father for promoting Sanskrit Drama production. With her troupe Nandini has participated several times in the prestigious Ujjain Kalidas festival, renowned Oriental conferences and Kaumudi Mahotsav of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi.
Between 1972-82 Nandini served the Bharatanatya school of her teacher at the Music Academy, as a Teaching Assistant; during 1975 – 1993, Nandini was a presenter – compere at the Madras Doordarshan for a wide range of programmes.
For nearly fifteen years, Nandini had been associated with The Hindu newspaper as its Resident Dance Correspondent. Her contribution in the columns of this esteemed newspaper, covered a variety of topics in the field of dance, music and dance-theatre. Nandini is regarded as one of the most communicative dance-writer and respected for her unbiased, analytical and constructive approach to art-criticism. Nandini regularly contributes articles for well known magazines and journals.
As Managing Trustee of Dr. V. Raghavan Centre for Performing Arts, Nandini teaches and continues the dance lineage of her illustrious teacher, in addition to propagating her father’s legacy, and publishing his remaining works.
Nandini served the premier institution Madras Music Academy as its Board Member 1995-98 and as Secretary for two consecutive terms between 1995-2004; She was Board Member of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi from 2004-2009; her active participation at both these renowned institutions resulted resulted in a number of productive endeavours like publication of Journals, Souvenirs, Training programmes and Documentation of invaluable source material of artistic heritage for posterity. Currently Nandini is an Expert-scholar-member of a couple of committees of the Ministry of culture, Govt. of India.
Nandini Ramani (nee’ Raghavan) is a proud inheritor of two great legacies. Her father Dr. V. Raghavan was one of the most erudite and versatile scholars of India. His knowledge and deep interest in the fields of Sanskrit language and cultural traditions of India and South-east Asia gave him a unique place in the scholarly world. He wrote and spoke extensively on a variety of subjects connected to India’s unparalleled heritage in arts and culture. Nandini’s formal education was vastly augmented by her dearly and close proximity to father.
Second legacy belongs to her Guru Smt. T. Balasaraswati, arguably the greatest dancer of 20th cent. India. ‘Bala’ as she was affectionately called by old and young admires around the world belonged to that old school of Bharatanatyam in which Guru was the Master. Her word, her moods, her time took precedence over everything. Bala, in her lifetime, taught very few students, but when and how she taught was of a quality rarely to be seen today. Nandini learnt Bharatanatyam from the age of five and Bala too poured her art into this ready “Supatra”, vessel that was worthy of being filled with the art.
With facility of in-depth training in dance and music, theatre and poetry, Nandini expanded her field of interest to writing about them. Performing on stage does not always translate into being capable of watching others perform and thereafter make objective critique. But in this case, despite being a successful stage performer both in dance and theatre, Nandini was able to create vast and dedicated readership for her eminently knowledgeable reviews.
Nandini’s association with The Hindu lasted about 15 years in which she saw and wrote on dancers in every classical style, musicians, theatre, seminars, festivals and other interesting events.
This anthology of her critique of 61 events, covering dance and music, 60 of which appeared in The Hindu and one in Sruti magazine will prove valuable material for artists and Rasikas and should certainly be picked up by libraries, archives, university departments, and schools of dance and music. The book covers wide span of time and artists, some of whom may have departed and some who may be now unable to perform. Rare interviews are a special feature of this anthology. Nandini travelled 4 ½ hours out of Bangalore to reach Kadur village in search of the legendary court-dancer Smt. Venkatalakshmamma. She had been the Raja-Nartaki and Aasthana-Vidushi at the royal court of erstwhile princely state of Mysore.
She was also reported to have an enviable repertory of Padams, Javalis and Kritis, in Kannada, Telugu and Tamizh. Her Abhinaya was sometimes comapared to Balasaraswati’s. nandini maybe one of the few to search her out and engage her in hours of fruitful conversation.
There is a beautiful piece on “Araiyar Seva”, male ritualistic dance service at Srirangam temple during a specific festival. Nandini’s piece proved to be the turning point for this same form.
Nothing escaped Nandini’s sharp observation. Her ears attuned to tuneful music, her ‘Drishti’ (eyes) relishing the visual aesthetics of good dancing, her loved mind picking up unusual and thrilling “Aah” moments, all these and more make Nandini Ramani’s book a collector’s item. One hopes that the press and media will feel the need for her kind of informed, objective, affectionate writing and once again invite her to enlighten their vast readership around the globe.
It gives me great joy to express my deep commitment to the dance community at large, by placing this humble publication, containing my writings on dance, dancers and dance-related topics to the connoisseurs of arts and all those who fervently support the art scenario from varied angles of its propagation and sustenance.
Being a very faithful dancer trained in the truly austere, disciplined approach of Bharatanatyam, under the great legend Smt. T.Balasaraswati, and her close associate, Nattuvanar Sri. K. Ganesan, my deep interest in this art-form began at a very early age, nurtured by my revered parents.
With deep involvement in this style of Bharatanatyam, my father Dr. V.Raghavan chose, as though, in a way “to dedicate” both his daughters, Priyamvada, the elder and myself for the upkeep of this dance-tradition all our life. Such has been our commitment to our chosen tradition.
At a point of my artistic career came a sudden offer from the esteemed newspaper, The Hindu, Chennai through the good efforts of senior journalist Sri. SVK, the well-known music critic; I was referred to him by one of our close associates, Sangita Kalanidhi R. Vedavalli. I felt a divine connection in this offer as it landed on me when I was worshipping at the Kapaleeswara temple; That was one of the great moments of my life. Although I was excited, the following day I met with Smt. Nirmala Lakshman, one of the managing partners of The Hindu with certain hesitation; Mrs. Lakshman encouraged me to a great extant even at the first meeting.
As a first-time writer, I slowly picked up; soon everything seemed very familiar with regard to the intricacies of dance-writing and its varied approaches. I realized my own potential which emerged out of my deep training of the art-form. I contributed to the dance column for almost fifteen years, identifying myself with The Hindu as its Resident Correspondent, as it was known then.
Although I was already well-exposed to a variety of art-forms, I still received further exposure to many more varieties of dance-forms, legends of dance, veteran traditional exponents, senior and upcoming artists, new techniques, debates on emerging trends, seminars, festivals, rare art-forms, and so on. Mrs. Nirmala Lakshman, Joint Managing Director, who oversaw the renowned Friday Page of The Hindu, gave me plenty of opportunities, reposing faith in me and encouraged me to even suggest interesting topics. I still cherish the warmth and affection that Mrs. Lakshman extended to me in her own charming way, after seeing the first report that got published in the dance column.
Thus my association with The Hindu gave me further respect, higher recognition, and wider reach, making my experience richer and deeper in the role of a Journalist; it was truly a rewarding one, although at the expense of sacrificing considerably my own career as a dancer; I made my own conviction that a dance-writer should not be dancing when commenting on others’ performances.
Dance-writing was equally a challenge and learning process too; I had to work towards achieving a certain attitude of ‘Samatva’ or balanced outlook on various issues pertaining to art-criticism; being an absolute stickler to the tradition of T. Balasaraswati, I had to disengage myself to view the work of others unbiased and I could achieve that to a great extant, thanks to the ‘generous gene’ passed on by my revered father who took a larger view of all matters with great generosity, sharing and composure, while, he stood firm about his own scholarly discipline.
The first day of my entry to The Hindu office, was meeting with those in the Friday page Section; the first to meet was Sri. G.Dwarakanath, the then News Editor, who advised me quoting the wise words of the veteran founder of The Hindu, Sri. Kasturi Srini vasan- ‘Write about the strikingly good points; you may drop writing about those points which you feel are not quite right”; what a great statement by that doyen! “Less is more” – suits any reporting process which went in good taste in those days.
The Late K.N. Bhashyam, and after him Smt. Geetha Venkataramanan were great guides who encouraged me and were impressed with my work. At this point, I am grateful to the support of the “Trio” of The Hindu-Sri. N. Ravi, who was the then Editor-in Chief, Sri. N. Ram and Sri. N. Murali, who were observing me and my committed work. I sincerely thank everyone of these mentioned above for their faith and solid acknowledgement that embellished throughout my journey as a dance-writer.
This present collection marks the completion of my 60 years, an occasion when I deeply re-dedicate my life and career at the divine altar of Sri Tyagesa of Tiruvarur and Sri Anjaneyamurti.
This collection contains 61 articles that I have chosen from my extensive coverages spanning over nearly 15 years. The present publications, titled “Dance, Dancers and Musicians”, covers mostly Profiles, and Interviews of veteran performers, dance teachers, next generation dancers, veteran musicians, and rare art-forms; two exquisite works of contemporary artists, which left a deep impact on me are included in the final Section of the book. These have been culled out of the vast collection of my writings, mainly to focus on making the book informative and worthy as a documentation as many of the articles contain matter that remain hitherto unnoticed or not recorded for posterity.
With great sense of reverence, I acknowledge the veteran Odissi Exponent, Padmavibhushan Dr. Sonal Mansingh, a very dear friend and well-wisher, who has kindly blessed my work with her precious Foreword.
I wish to acknowledge the assistance provided by Smt. Sivapriya Krishnan, upcoming Carnatic Vocalist in the initial stages of the publication and the services of Smt. Gowri, who has helped in making the DTP for the text of the book. I sincerely thank Sri. Venkatesh of KVK Letter Prints and Sri. Elumalai, of the same company, who have helped me to a great extent in the completion of this publication.
Last but not the least, it is my pleasure and duty to acknowledge the financial support extended by my brother-in-law, Dr. T.S. Shankar, Emeritus Prof. of Mech. Engg., residing in Montreal, Canada, and my very dear sister, Priyamvada Sankar, who has been a great pillar of strength, not only for this book, but in all my endeavours at Dr. V. Raghavan Centre.
My sincere acknowledgement to my second elder brother, Dr. R. Charudattan, Emeritus Prof. of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville, U.S.A. for his financial support towards this publication.
At this moment, I wish to place on record, the continued support and encouragement given by my eldest brother, Sri. R. Kalidas for all the activities of the centre.
I seek the blessings of my teachers in dance and music, who have showed me the right path towards my artistic goals, by sharing their invaluable treasures of dance and musical heritage.
I wish and hope that this humble publication will be of use to all those who are interested in our arts, artists and artistic traditions, their preservation and propagation. I submit this book at the glorious feet of Sri Sadaananda Taandavamurti, and dedicate it to my illustrious father, Dr. V. Raghavan and my equally precious mother, Smt Sarada Raghavan, but for whose vision and deep love for fine arts, I would not have made any mark in the cultural society at large.
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