The various sides of Lakshmi Viswanathan’s artwork

To hint a seven-decade journey is difficult, extra so when it considerations a character as iconic as Lakshmi Viswanathan. Past the numerous awards that she acquired (Kalaimamani, Nritya Choodamani, Nritya Kalanidhi and extra), Lakshmi was a delicate artiste with a refreshing sense of candour and irreverence. Traversing the realms of efficiency, curation, scholarship and writing with ease, she was a robust presence within the panorama of dance.

A chief disciple of Kanjeevaram Elappa Pillai, Lakshmi took nice pleasure in carrying ahead the Thanjavur bani of dance and music, even authoring a number of books on it, together with Bharatanatyam: The Tamil HeritageKunjamma: Ode to a Nightingale and Ladies of Pleasure: The Devadasi Heritage.

True to the fashion

Okay.P.Okay. Chandrasekaran, son of celebrated nattuvanar Kittappa Pillai, of the Thanjavur custom recollects, “No matter Lakshmi Viswanathan offered, she all the time remained true to the fashion.” Says senior dancer Geeta Chandran, “Lakshmi’s huge information of the historical past of Bharatanatyam, its renaissance and its meanderings — each significant and meaningless — since its rebirth had been all points that fed each her mind and humour. A couple of days earlier than her passing, I heard her converse on devadasi Gnanam as a part of the Sangam Competition at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.”

Watch | Lakshmi Vishwanathan at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Natya Kala Convention in December 2022

Lakshmi’s analysis on dance was essential because it highlighted the salient options of the Elappa Pillai fashion. She travelled all over the world sharing the wonder and richness of the Thanjavur bani. A previous convenor of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Natya Kala convention and the previous editor of the Kalakshetra journal, Lakshmi’s penchant for the rigorous examine of dance historical past was an necessary side of her profession.

Her attachment to the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore impressed a publication in 2006, which supplied an intensive exploration of the temple and its festivals. Her exploration of the devadasi custom of Thanjavur was refreshing, as she was a direct disciple of the nattuvanar custom. Her therapy of the repertoire items mirrored the aesthetic of the previous. Her e-book on the devadasi heritage was a tribute to the ladies who belonged to that lineage.

Lakshmi’s coaching in Carnatic vocal music underneath T. Muktha, Tiruvaiyaru Krishnamurthy and Tediyur Narayanaswami knowledgeable her dance immensely. She additionally educated in Kuchipudi underneath Vempatti Chinna Satyam.

All within the household

Veteran Carnatic vocalist Charumathi Ramachandran recalling the rapport that she shared together with her sister, each on and off stage, says, “I sang for her performances for 20 years. We had been inculcated into the humanities at a younger age by our mother and father. We might by no means miss taking part within the college culturals. Lakshmi was very focussed on dance. She was all the time keen so as to add to her information. She would learn loads and learnt new items from Vazhuvoor Samaraj, Sankari Krishnan and Mylapore Gowri Ammal to widen her repertoire.”

Lakshmi during a performance in 2017 at Sivagami Pethachi auditorium in Mylapore, Chennai.

Lakshmi throughout a efficiency in 2017 at Sivagami Pethachi auditorium in Mylapore, Chennai.
| Photograph Credit score:
KARUNAKARAN M

In keeping with dancer-teacher Roja Kannan, who’s the president of ABHAI (Affiliation of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India), “Lakshmi Viswanathan was a educated Carnatic vocalist, who would sing whereas fantastically demonstrating abhinayam. We at ABHAI had the privilege of holding many Abhivriddhishalas together with her, the place she shared her knowlege of padams, kirtanams and javalis. When she headed ABHAI, she launched some landmark occasions into the establishment’s calendar. The primary Mahabalipuram Competition of Dance was conceived and curated by Lakshmi akka. It was held on the historic website of Arjuna’s Penance on the Shore Temple. It quickly grew to become a preferred dance competition and was finally taken up by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Growth Company.”

Lakshmi had a definite fashion of abhinaya, expressing subtlety and nuance in her method to even the fieriest of nayikas. One in every of her hottest renditions ‘Entati kuluke’ noticed her embodying a nayika who was as daring and sincere as she was. Her notable productions embrace ‘The Banyan Tree’ during which she staged the stress between E. Krishna Iyer (who presided over her arangetram) and Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy. ‘My Tyagaraja’ was one other landmark manufacturing in regards to the life and occasions of Bangalore Nagarathnammal.

At her home in Chennai

At her dwelling in Chennai
| Photograph Credit score:
S.R. RAGHUNATHAN

Understanding of literature

In keeping with Bharatanatyam exponent Rama Vaidyanathan, Lakshmi’s distinctive grasp of the artwork type and her deep understanding of literature made her stand out as an artiste. As she herself put it, she beloved to “swim within the sahitya”.

She had the flexibility to take a look at the varied layers, and in addition on the a number of contexts of any literary work. Because the convenor of the Natya Kala Convention, 2022, I had the privilege of inviting her to current a session titled ‘Tanjavur Natyam – Roots of Sringara’. She lived life on her personal phrases, dwelling each second with elan and relishing all issues stunning. She had different pursuits and mates internationally. Her final Season in Chennai was a taking place one, full of lectures and performances. It was as if she was bidding goodbye to all of the individuals she beloved, and the areas that she had inhabited all her life.”

When one appears to be like at an artiste’s legacy, it’s only their physique of labor that’s spoken about. Within the case of Lakshmi Viswanathan, she has bestowed upon us a legacy that’s each skilled and private. The dancer was recognized for having fun with lengthy conversations and inspiring younger artistes.

Bengaluru-based Praveen Kumar remembers how one by no means felt intimidated by her presence and information. “You possibly can simply decide up the cellphone and chat together with her. It was a uncommon high quality in a dancer of her stature.”

From her debut on the age of seven on the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore to her lectures this December Season, Lakshmi Viswanathan embraced with ardour each side of Bharatanatyam.

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