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Madhur Vani

Vani Ganapathy speaks about life, relationships, and moving on


IT MUST certainly be boring to be described and depicted as a celebrity every third day in the papers. Sometimes you just wish you could get away from the glare and ask things true of yourself, not what you see on Page Three. Vani Ganapathy kind of agreed, wondering what it means to anybody at all — asking who one is seen with, what one is eating today, what one wore yesterday. "I would really like to be called a good human being, not a celebrity," she said, in a chat that showed an introspective side to her.

Her performance at the Bangalore Habba was lively and she liked the fact that Bangalore was waking up. It seemed a good time to ask her what she thought of her life here.

Vani is doing well with her dance institute, Sanchari, over the last few years and has students who are new as well as veterans.

For those who came in late, Vani began dancing at the age of four, at Kolkata, and gave her first performance at seven. She then moved to Bombay, lived a big part of her life there, completed her education, and then moved on to Madras. When her marriage with film star Kamala Hasan didn't work, she chose to settle down in Bangalore, where she set up Sanchari.

Vani learnt her dance under gurus such as T.A. Rajalakshmi, Govindaraja Pillai, Mahalingam Pillai, and Kalyanasundaram. "Kalyanasundaram and Kalanidhi Narayan have influenced my dance deeply. Padma Subramaniam's capacity to reach out to the audience has always captivated me," says Vani, who in the mid-Seventies presented a TV serial for Doordarshan on the four main classical idioms of dance, The Rich Heritage. The programme was Doordarshan's entry at the Blue Danube Festival in Europe and was later telecast by BBC. She has performed all over the world and continues to do so. Dance is her first love. Moreover, she is a passionate teacher of the art. You ask her whether living independently made that difference, after the turbulent Madras days. "Of course. When I got married, dance took the back seat. It could not have been I, me, and myself. Family life was important. I also did not want an ego clash. Kamal was into cinema. But there was no pressure on me not to dance. Marriage was a choice I made — a choice to share my time. And when I came to Bangalore, I needed to make a livelihood and dance was the only vocation I knew. There was lot of time on hand. I was coming out of a cornered situation. I thought it was best to do what I knew best — dance."

Vani did not agree that being single necessarily meant being liberated. "That is a typical question anyone would ask of a single woman. There is no particular reason to say that one needs to stay single. It depends on experiences one has had in life." There is not much incentive today to stay together, and loyalty, conscience, fidelity are words, mere words, she observes. "But I do not want to ridicule marriage. It may work well for some, not so well for others. And many who are unhappy with marriage may be inspired to get back hearing stories of people living happily."

But doesn't she need to feel secure? "What does it mean to depend on someone else for security? It could hurt. Security, love, desire — these things can give you joy or pain. You don't know what you will get."

She has not shied away from close relationships. She has her friends in whom she confides. What she would not take in such relationships is pretension.

"Look around you, you can count the number of people who are good. There are many you can't take at face value. Go deep into them and you will find they are not what they are."

For her, life is about being hurt sometimes and being happy at other times. "I believe relationships involve a lot of these emotions. In the end though, I have realised that if people do not put in effort to make a relationship work, it won't work. No relationship between any two people can ever be taken for granted."

In the course of the chat, one came away with the understanding, that her renewed interest in dance may have been part of her experience of an independent life.

And, more generally, that the state of one's personal life could easily have a bearing on one's creative capacities. The reflective side to Vani Ganapathy was indeed instructive.

PRASHANTH G.N.

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