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Leverage lens to reach classical dance to common man: Radhika Surajit
CHENNAI, January 3: If dance is an art, Bharathanatyam is a classical art. One needs to enjoy it. An art is a vehicle to learn life. Bharathanatyam is not just about giving performances on stage. "It (Bharathanatyam) is nrithya yoga," says Radhika Surajit, the brain behind the hugely successful and still running classical dance show `‘ta-ka-dhi-mi-ta’ on Jaya TV.

A systems engineer, Radhika quit her profession way back in 1982 to take to full-time dancing. Coming from a middle class background, she has traveled quite a distance. From a performer, Radhika has gone on to become a guru and choreographer. "I am now sharing my space with my students," she says. Not surprisingly, her coffee-chat with Deccan Chronicle at Rasam Restaurant here during the music month of December saw over half-a-dozen students turn up to listen to their guru.

"Art teaches you time management and balance in life," she says. "Unlike others, classical dance calms down you. You will feel calmer and relaxed after dancing for an hour," she adds. "Art should make one grow as a good human being. Art reflects what you are. Innate good in you reflects in the goodness of your art," she says.

Why is that dance shows elicit poor audience response? Radhika has a readymade answer for this. “Dance is a visual art form. Hence, the audience has to be physically present to see and appreciate the dance," she points out. Being a powerful media, television could play big role in educating the audience on dance. Unfortunately, classical dance has not got its due from TV channels, she rues. Even the Government-owned TV channels broadcast dance programmes only at odd times in the night, she regrets. "It is sad that a classical art, acclaimed world-wide, does not get its due here. If the Government gives prime time slots to such programmes without commercial considerations, this condition will improve for sure,” she feels.

Radhika is convinced that the television medium needs to be exploited to take Bharathanatyam to a larger audience within the country. It is easier said than done, however. "For this, you need to know the logic of the lens," she says. It requires a detailed study of a host of factors such as area, space, time et al. It calls for a complete understanding of how these impact a dance programme on TV, she says. "Lenses are like the eyes of the audience. A dance changes with every lens," she points out. Dance via lens, according to her, is one way to reach out to more through a different medium. "What you lose out on stage, you can get it on TV," she points out. It does not necessarily mean that you change the grammar. "It all boils down to how best you use it to reach more audience via lens," she points out. This way, one can create a new set of audience for a dance programme. This will also help in kindling interest in the art itself, she points out.

Once during a trip to Palani to choreograph for a film song, she had a chance meeting with a petty shop owner who told her how much he liked the Jaya TV dance show. He went on demonstrate the ‘kartari mukha’ exactly the way anchor Sukhanya did in the show. "I was stunned to know the reach of the show. I went home and told my mom that I have attained ‘janma saaphalyam’ (the purpose of my life). That is the impact any classical art can leave on its audience if presented in the form as it should be,” Radhika says.

She has choreographed a number of film songs such as `nilaa kaaigirathu’ (Indra), `paatu cholli (Azhagi), `Mayilpola’ (Bharathi), among others. She has also choreographed and performed to the lyrics of Poet Kannadaasan. What is her view on mixing classical form with film music? “It is like walking a tight rope. Adapting to a different medium takes art to a global audience. To me, tradition is a flowing stream. I have least doubts that the good will last forever,” Radhika says.

She is an ardent lover of Tamil. "I breathe and live Tamil. I am a diehard fan of Tamil," Radhika declares. She had given dance performances, where varied hues of the Tamil language such as patriotism, literature, love, dream and so on took the centre stage.

For Radhika, music is the base. Choreograph for her should blossom on its own. "It can’t be a fake," she declares. She is not the kind who experiments something new for the sake giving something new. "You go to the same temple every day. Yet, you get a new experience every day," she points out.

What’s her advice to youngsters who pursue this classical art form? “Never quit your academics. Have it as a base to support you financially. Enjoy yourself while performing and do not consider any one as your competitor. You are unique. You are your competitor. There is no point in comparing. There are no yardsticks to perfection. Recognition will automatically follow hard work. Experiencing joy and spreading it to the audience should be the ultimate motive. This will bestow supreme bliss on any dedicated dancer,” she points out. Her young disciples nod their heads without a second thought!