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Lifetime in art

RANEE KUMAR

Guru V.S. Ramamoorthy continues to inspire aspiring classical dancers to tread the traditional path.



A wholesome artiste V.S.Ramamoorthy ;

When the term multi-tasking was not even in usage, this young man from Tanjore (now Thanjavur) ably managed an engineering job in the Defence services even as he worked to makeit big on the stage enacting dance dramas.

Meet Guru V.S. Ramamoorthy, one of the first Bharatanatyam teachers of our twin cities.

Surely Thanjavur has a way of getting into the blood stream as far as fine arts go.

Is that the reason why he was drawn towards dance? “When I was a boy, I once saw a dance recital by a devadasi in the temple. The padam was in Telugu and mind you she was in her 80s! Yet her abhinaya was simply stunning. Though I had no clue of the language, I was able to glean just through her expressions. I decided then and there that I should learn dance. But among Brahmin families of yore, dance was taboo for a male. So I went on to college at Trichy and later joined engineering college at Guindy in Chennai. It's here that I joined Rukmini Arundale's ( Atthai) Kalakshetra and was trained under Guru Dhandayudhapani Pillai during the final year of my graduation,” reminiscences the octogenarian .



With his daughter Manjula Ramaswamy.

His dance training spanned 12 years under the same guru. With utter humility, the veteran says, “I am just a drop in the mighty ocean when compared to the great dancers of my time - the temple dancers of Tanjore, my guru, atthai, Sharada Hoffman, Dhananjeyan and others. My guru was nothing much to look at on the physical side. Yet when he danced, he lived the role and when he sang the Darbari Kanada, it was like honey flowing out of a flower! I owe my life and passion to them. Today, I am a content man. There were many ups and downs in my life too - more ups than downs! But my fulfilment comes from the fact that my daughter Manjula Ramaswamy has taken after me and has proved to be a good dance teacher. What more can a father ask?” he says.

He joined the Defence (Army) as a civil engineer as soon as he graduated from Guindy. Yet no one knew of his penchant for classical dance, till his arangetram in 1947 at Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore.

Officer and a performing artiste

“It was August 15 and a prestigious sabha those days. My officers were taken aback when they knew. As luck would have it, my senior officers were full of admiration for a fellow-officer who was a performing artiste too. Throughout my service, I was able to get the encouragement so necessary for a dancer to survive and succeed,” he voices his gratitude.

For most part, his postings were in Tamil Nadu, but prior to his retirement, he had requested for Hyderabad “enamoured by Mud Fort. Inthe staff quarters there, one of my neighbouring officers saw me practise dance and immediately approached me to teach his little daughter. Suddenly, I found myself being flooded by requests to hold classes. What more, a special quarter was allotted for those dance classes! Soon I found that I had become a dance teacher!,” he guffaws.

There was no looking back ever since.

He came to be known as, and still is, a strict classicist teacher who adheresto nothing but tradition as it is handed down through generations.

Says he, “at first Manjula was not really interested in pursuing dance but later, I was so happy that she took a decision to do post-graduation in dance and take up this profession so that she could continue it after me. Today, she is heaped with encomiums of being the best nattuvanaar in the city,” the proud father says .

Today the father-daughter school ‘Sri Rama Nataka Niketan' boasts of churning out perfectionist young dancers!

Guru Ramamoorthy has many other aces up his sleeve - like acting in movies and television, apart from playing female and male characters in dance dramas. He is also a painter.

“The Kalakshetra training makes you a wholesome artiste. You seem to excel in all allied fields though you pursue one to the end,” he says with reverence.

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