Under The Shade Of The Banyan

When Rukmini Devi Arundale planted a banyan sapling on the Kalakshetra campus, she maybe envisaged the establishment rising as large because the tree.

A. Janardhanan, Honoured By Abhai Recently, Speaks Of His Long And Loyal Association With Kalakshetra

When Rukmini Devi Arundale planted a banyan sapling on the Kalakshetra campus, she maybe envisaged the establishment rising as large because the tree. And just like the tree’s many aerial prop roots which have over time grown into sturdy trunks, many distinguished dancers have emerged from Kalakshetra. One such is Prof. Arayambath Janardhanan.

Honoured not too long ago with the title of Natya Kalanidhi by ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Dancers of India), Janardhan says it was future that introduced him to Kalakshetra. A faculty annual day efficiency of Katha Prasangam impressed his principal a lot that he wrote a letter of advice to Rukmini Devi, asking her to take the little boy below her care. Kalakshetra quickly grew to become a second residence to Janardhanan — his father, the much-revered Kathakali grasp Asan Chandu Panikkar was already a instructor there.

At Kalakshetra, apart from the intensive coaching in music and dance, Janardhanan assimilated quite a bit by observing his guru and mentor, together with elements of stage craft, gentle design, choreography and costume.

After receiving a authorities scholarship, Janardhanan skilled in Kathakali below Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair. His clear traces and emotional depth landed him the numerous roles, from Rama to Ravana, Buddha and Ajamila, that he performed in numerous Kalakshetra productions.

Recalling his pupil days, Janardhanan says, “Much of the learning happened outside the classroom, when we were interacting with teachers, visiting artistes and peers.”

The outdated dance dramas

It is that this coaching that has helped him revive lots of Rukmini Devi’s productions. “We were encouraged to adopt an holistic approach to dance that included story, music, choreography, costume, colours, props and lights. While reviving the plays, I just followed Rukmini Devi’s vision,” says Janardhanan. In reality, the dancer really “recreated the entire process” simply because it had been performed below Rukmini Devi, together with recalling the entries and exits and even her selection of fabric and hues.

“But it has also not been easy,” says Janardhanan. “Unlike the gurukula system, the semester system with its limited hours of learning and new batches of students every academic term makes it challenging to stage the mega natya-natakams.”

Another issue that Janardhanan factors to is the lack to coach dancers for a number of roles. “In our training days, dancers sometimes had to take on a new role at short notice. Or during a tour, if there was a shortage of actors, dancers doubled up to play other roles. This is difficult today,” he says.

Janardhanan choreographed two dance dramas, ‘Karna Sapatam’ (Malayalam) and Sri Purandara’ (Kannada) for the Kalakshetra repertory, and ‘Sri Krishna Jananam’ (for the Dhananjayans’ Bharata Kalanjali).

Though early recognition eluded him, he later acquired a number of titles and awards, together with Kerala Kalasree (Kerala Sangeet Natak Akademi), the Acharya Choodamani, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

From pupil to instructor to principal of Kalakshetra, and at this time as emeritus professor, Janardhanan’s life and creative journey is clearly umbilically linked to the institute.

The creator is a Chennai-based freelance author.



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