Chennai and Tamil Nadu
A legend in her lifetime
Passing by Vyjayanthimala is grace and charm personified.
Charming beauty Vyjayanthimala Bali
Vyjayanthimala breezes into the hotel lobby with an outstretched hand greeting you at the dot of the appointed time.
The charming smile that once captured the hearts of millions of cinegoers flashes.. Passing years may have had their toll on her countenance, but the vivacity and verve have more than compensated for that. She can walk the ramp even today putting many a young competitor to shame.
“My dance practice is like a yoga, a puja, a lifestyle to me even today. Now, I have turned towards reviving some of the rare, traditional pieces my illustrious gurus bequeathed to me. I’m in the process of preserving these old compositions in the form of DVDs and instruction manuals for posterity to pick up and practice,” she says with a commitment.
Does she still perform? “I did so recently at the Madras Music Academy. What makes me really happy is to see so many youngsters among my audience who later come up excitedly to me after the show and express their appreciation. Mind you, I have so far, not tinkered with the traditional form nor do I like to dilute what my great masters have handed over to me.
I do rare pieces and thematic presentations like Om Shanti meant more for the north Indian audience. You can inspire youngsters if you have the capacity and capability to produce something that is truly ‘awesome,’” she says with a mischievous twinkle.
May be the impact of her persona as film star for decades has petered down over the ages and the glamour still holds on? “Of course, my long film career has helped catapult me to fame rather quickly,” she admits with a rider, “but I never allowed my dance and films to get tangled with each other. I treated the latter as a profession while the former was a passion which called for a purity of purpose. So, I should say my being a dancer helped me in films not vice-versa.”
Giving up dance
She candidly admits that she had to give up her Bharatanatyam performances at the peak of her film career. Rather she scaled them down to “few.”
She got back to dance more seriously when she had married Dr. Bali and gave up films totally after her son was born, she moved over to Chennai, her hometown. As if giving a testimonial to the stories of yonder years, she says, “My grandmother was the one who moulded me into what I am today. I was nicknamed ‘twinkle toes’ with my very first film.
Later, Dr. Bali, my husband constantly extended his untiring cooperation. If you have to be a successful professional especially in a tough art field like dance, you need a supportive family.”
Talk to her about the physical fitness regimen being adopted by the present day dancers to have stamina on stage and she laughs aloud. “I’ve never known this till date. Dance in itself is wholesome exercise of body and mind and constant practice makes you fit for the stage for as many hours as you wish. Dancers of my day never ever imagined this sort of extra exercises! And we’ve been dancing for decades.”
Vyjanthimala the classicist does not adhere to the theory of fusion, another present day trend, to hold the attention of changing audience.
“I was the first woman Indian dancer to perform in the UN and I got away with applause for doing the margam in which I did a record 45 minute plus varnam. If you have the stuff in you, the audience will fall in line,” she is emphatic.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu