Dr Shrividya Muralidhar , a True Exponent of Bharatanatyam Dance
Mangaluru: Addressing the media persons during a press meet held at Mangalore Press Club, Bharatanatyam exponent Dr Shrividya Muralidhar narrated her achievements in the field of Bharatanatyam. There is no feat that is left unaccomplished by this Bharatanatyam dancer from Kodagu-Karnataka. Seems like she has attained every award, danced on every stage and performed in every event that one can name in the dancing arena in South India. Dr Shrividya Muralidhar has captured every peak of classical dance. Born to art loving parents K.Raman and Sharadha, who found the Sourabha Kala Parishath in 1991 in Kodagu , Shrividya was introduced to Bharatanatyam at a young age of 3. “Even though it has been more than 3 decades of dedicating myself to the divine art and its ecstasy, I still feel that the knowledge I have acquired is just a drop in the ocean, and I quest to learn more and more,” says Dr Shrividya.
Trained by the eminent guru Karnataka Kala Tilaka Sri Muralidhar Rao, Shrividya went on to do her doctorate in Bharatanatyam. Winner of several prominent awards such as Rajiv Gandhi Ekta award, Kittur Rani Chennama award, Kannada siri, Nritya Visharade, Natya Mayuri and Gaana Kogile at state and national level, Shrividya is a graded artist at Doordarshan, the national TV of India. “I am blessed in that I come from a family of artistes. My grandmother is a vocalist, and my mother’s siblings and grandfather were Yakshagana (an art form of Karnataka) artistes. My mother was very much interested in Bharatanatyam which prompted her to train me and my sister Shridhanya in the art form from a very young age. Me and my sister are where we are because of our parents and we cannot thank them enough for showing us the right path from the beginning,” said Dr Shrividya.
Intelligence and talent is in her genes. Despite being a gracious dancer and performing most of the time, she never ignored academics. Dr Shrividya is a Post graduate in Management as well as English Literature, along with being the youngest artiste to be awarded PhD in Bharatanatyam. An exponent of Pandanallore style of dancing which combines Abhinaya and abundant Manodharma, Kannada SahityaParishath Bangalore, honoured Shrividya by publishing her work, `Bhava Rasa Niroopanam.’ She has performed in various stages all over Middle East. Along with teaching dancing at the Sourabha centre, she is a registered dance teacher and examiners at the State Secondary Examination Board Karnataka. As Bharatnatyam exponent Dr Shrividya Muralidhar has completed over three decades of dancing, she talked about the confluence of classical and contemporary, notions of beauty and being a Bharatnatyam dancer. She is an artiste whose compound knowledge of Bharatanatyam has made her art form merge with life itself, moving out-of-the-box and exploring Bharatanatayam to train others.
Since childhood, Shrividya was fond of dancing and her desire was to become a dancer. A rare combination of a flawless dancer, choreographer, teacher and author, Dr. Shrividya probably is one of the most respected and reputed Bharatanatyam dancers of South India. She enchants spectators with perfect movements and hand gestures and emotes beautifully with her face. This versatile dancer has received many awards and honors that are listed here in this article. She holds the distinction of being the leading proponent of the traditional Bharatanatyam. People have applauded her for bringing depth, passion and spontaneity into her work. She has performed in almost all the major festivals in South India and has also displayed her talent in most of the cultural parts of Gulf and UK. Her own distinct style, which emerged as a result of her practice as well as research, has enriched the domain of Bharatanatyam. No doubt, Dr Shrividya has brought a contemporary interpretation to the traditional framework of classical Indian dance.
Following are the excerpts from the exclusive interview with Dr Shrividya Muralidhar:
Q: What made you or how were you convinced in taking up the art of Bharatnatyam dance?
I was a child of three when I began learning dance all by the influence of my parents. It was only later that the realization of learning the great art taught me that life would be unconvincing without it. I won state level gold medal at the age of 8, from late Shrikantadatta wodeyar of Mysore in 1986 for my artistry. As a child striving to learn and achieve in this art thus began.
Q: How does one choose a guru? How did you find yours?
The basics of a classical dance are generally similar in the teachings of all Gurus, be it Bharathanatyam or any other style. For the professional training, it is a different concept. The student aspiring to perform better chooses a performance oriented Guru and a student pertaining in-depth knowledge in the art opts for a theoretically serious teacher.
My Guru Natyacharya Muralidhar Rao, 94 years now is a living legend and master of fine arts. Its my great luck, I was chosen by him to be trained. For him, Bharathanatyam is not a dance just. Its a stream of knowledge all inclusive of other subjects.
Q: Explain the Guru-Student relationship. How important was your Guru?
A Guru – Student relationship doesn’t end at teaching and learning a given particular subject. In fact it is the beginning of the sum total of the knowledge of life experiences. A dance Guru Sculpts the physical as well as the psychological beauty of his Shishya, wherein one graduates to become a dancer with elevated thoughts.
My Guru has taught me dance, that emanated from life. He has also benignly guided me to render it back to life kind.
Q: Do you find meaning in the mudras (hand movements) and the poetic lyrics, especially since the dances depict Hindu gods and stories? Are the messages universal?
Dance is a universal language. I have been successfully able to perform and reach to touch my audience all over the United Arab Emirates, all over the United Kingdom, they belonging to the diverse country, culture and religion.
It only depends on the Dancer’s communicability through performing.
Q: The NatyaShastra, an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, describes female Bharatanatyam dancers as “women who have beautiful limbs, are clever, courteous in behavior, free from female diseases, always bold, free from indolence, inured to hard work, capable of practicing various arts and crafts, skilled in dancing and songs, who excel by their beauty, youthfulness and brilliance.” Do dancers have to possess these qualities inherently or are they acquired throughout the course of training? What do you think are required attributes of a Bharatanatyam dancer — both inherent and acquired?
A dancer is first a student. As a student, he/she requires ardent passion in learning and internalizing this Art of Bharatha. With a quest that is pure for knowledge and continuous sadhana, a dancer acquires all the mandatory qualities expected of her to be a perfect dancer.
Q: It is said that Bharatanatyam requires tremendous discipline. Is there still room for artistic expression? Do you consider yourself an artiste?
Every Art expects discipline and simultaneously encourages creativity. There is no room for stagnancy in art. True as a dance artiste, maintaining of physical stamina to perform becomes a challenge for female dancers after the age of 40. But to continue in new productions, creative choreography, the teaching of dance and continuing the legacy is no risky deal.
Q: In what way has Bharatanatyam changed your life: both for better and for worse?
As a classical dance artiste, It has been easy for me to face the hardships of life, Art has made me strong within.
Q: How do you see your role in the society as a dancer apart from being a full time Principal of a institute?
The dance which is an artistic profession of mine is a subject that has evolved from human life itself. I am keen in producing dance and dance dramas that are carriers of social message. My role is to reach the common man with a socially reawakening thought through classical dance.
Q: Which is your most memorable performance so far?
Performing “Kannada Nadi”, a dance drama based on the greatness of Karnataka its history, literature, geographical beauty and patriotism at Abu Dhabi Kannada Sangha for Kannada Rajyothsava-2012 (Abu Dhabi), and the same for Manchester Kannada Balaga-2016, (Manchester), wherein we had a standing ovation from thousands of Kannadigas overseas, is just memorable.
Q: What is the importance of hands and feet in this dance?
Hands and limbs together make a poesy of dance, without which dance is unthinkable.
Q: How did your show go on in UK? Where the audience enthralled with your performance?
UK dance tour was a great success. I have abundant memories to cherish. My Book got released at the Indian High Commission-London, Of the twelve performance all around the UK, each and one was a great moment of celebration due to audience feedback.
Q: Finally what is your message for anyone who wants to learn Bharatanatyam, and your words of wisdom for the youth in particular?.
There is no shortcut for achievement is an old saying but I would insist on the same. For those in a hurry to perform, Bharatanatyam is not the field. Bharathanatyam is an art that molds one’s personality internally and externally. It definitely poses a wide future. The youth should embrace it as an art and part of life. It heals, soothes, entertains and strengthens within meanwhile a great heritage envisions to the next generation.