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In her footsteps

If there's one woman who sets stars dancing to her tunes, it is choreographer Kala Master. She holds a sway in Kollywood with her award winning works.


SHE IS a pint-sized dynamo who has the stars of the tinsel world dancing to her tunes. Wannabe actors flock to her school — a launch pad of sorts — for acquiring that extra qualification before they enter Kollywood. Recently she set the screen on fire with her choreography for the song Vandaar Kuzhali in the film "Thiruda Thirudi" starring Dhanush and Chaya Singh.

In live shows, whether it's in India or Dubai, she has something new for everybody. The Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu film industry vies for her dates.

Kala Master, 32, one of South India's leading choreographers and National Award Winner (Kochi Kochi Sandhosham directed by Mandi Gaddu ) packs punch and grace, turning dance numbers into visual delights. A trained classical dancer, Kala, a school drop out, entered the field through her brother-in-law Raghu master (who did films like "Ek Dujhe Ke Liye"). Making her debut as an assistant choreographer at the age of 12 in 1982, she got a break during the making of "Punnagai Mannan" starring Kamal Hassan and Revathi, as director Balachander suggested Kala fill in for the busy Raghu master .

Never looking back, she has since choreographed over 3600 songs in various languages including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalalam, Hindi , Kannada, Oriya, Bengali, English, Italian and Japanese. She has worked with directors like K.Balachander, Mani Ratnam, K.S.Ravikumar, Priyadarshan, Fazil, Kamal Hassan and the filmography contains names like "Roja," "Puthu Puthu Arthangal," "Vaaname Yellai," "Virasat," "Pranaya Varnangal," "Ustaad," "Niram," "Megam," "Summer in Bethlehem," "Friends," "Narasimham," "Azhagan,"etc.

"It was through K. Balachander and Raghu Master that I learnt the technique and how to handle a hero who cannot dance," she says. Among the current crop of actors, she rates Simran an excellent dancer. "Jyotika's forte is expression. For grace and femininity it is Meena, while Ramya Krishnan draws people to her. For the B and C centres Mumtaz is best. Among the heroes Vijay is the best, Ajit is a macho dancer, Surya and Shyam are graceful and Vikram is both a good dancer and artiste."


Her most unforgettable dance sequence is the Kozhi Koovuthu Neramachu song in "Azhagan," starring Mammoty and Bhanupriya. "People look at cine dance with a different perspective. But I have managed to capture their hearts with "Azhagan" The dance number had dialogue as well and was done in two days flat." She treasures her National Award for a classical folk number and the opportunity to choreograph the Miss World 1996 Beauty Pageant held at Bangalore for which she got a special award of excellence from Amitabh Bachchan.

"Dance sequences have to be planned properly with the needed paper work. Most of the time I compose on the spot at the sets, after a briefing from the director. It's a gift God has given me, though I may be a zero in other things including academics." To the criticism, particularly from the older generation that film dances don't blend into the storyline, she says, "Even in the theatres I have seen people going out for a smoke during a good mythological song .If it's a Mumtaz number it's watched with interest and there will be encores. I always avoid suggestive movements even if it's a rain song and I explain my stand to the director. But if he insists that the situation demands it, or if the distributor asks for it, we have to make a lot of compromises. The heroines are usually happy working with me, as they know I will make the song look artistic." She cites the song in "Ivan" in which there is no physical contact but has turned out very alluringly.

She loves live shows because there are no compromises. "All the stars have to be given an equal chance and I insist on their coming to rehearsals punctually. I work with the set director, use a lot of formations and ensure the entire stage is covered. I never repeat the movements in the original film song and pack in a surprise element. People say the film world is bad. I think you can live without fear here as the technicians take you under their wing. After outstation shoots I will retire to my room and stay put. People have an impression that Kala Master is very arrogant and strict, but I love my privacy."

SUDHA UMASHANKER

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