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The treasure of ‘Kala’ that she was and will be… true to her name!

Knowledge abound:Kalanidhi Narayanan
(Image courtesy: The Kalaparva)

The value association with loss of human life is most often made to time in the past. Some loses alongside creating a huge irrecoverable void, leave a community with timely responsibility to shoulder. Whilst the classical dance fraternity of India mourns the passing away of Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, unanimously regarded the doyen of ‘Abhinaya’ (much to herself very humbly denying such titles), they now stand to disseminate the art and spirit that Kalanidhi mami very liberally offered!
Amongst the existence of galaxy of senior stalwart disciples of mami who learnt under her direct tutelage, and who are currently coming to terms with this loss, I wondered who am I to even publish an obituary. Well, this comes as an ode to an idol whom many a youngster like me only idolized, never met in person yet whose art was so accessible and endearing that we ‘learnt to learn art’ and whose physical absence today is jerking.
She could be considered the metaphor to what ‘great teaching’ ought to be. In a field where unfortunately legacy is mistaken to be possession and where insecurity overpowers the sharing of knowledge, Kalanidhi mami has created gems through her large entourage of renowned students each revered as great gurus themselves, spread across the globe. She created a hence unprecedented and irreplaceable separate teaching system for abhinaya alone, where she could churn out a different mood and a varied expression each time she repeated a line of literature and more importantly magnanimously taught it all! It is this ceaseless and profound wealth turned into, so to say a monopolized genre called ‘abhinaya training’ that is now being flocked to, by the young professional world of dancers, who consider themselves fortunate on one hand and also take pride in learning under Kalanidhi mami’s students. What she has given will sure last for centuries to come – to learn and unlearn, but sadly now, nothing more would be churned….

Even on one side as she ensured a long oral continuum of a perplexing guru-shishya parampara, she contextualized herself in and with current techno-driven art practices with a colossal contribution of all times. The Kalakriya video series (DVD’s) for which Kalanidhi mami has lent her admirable performances and guided several audio-visual illustrated lectures have pillared understanding of abhinaya across cross section of dancers, to the extent to even facilitate and develop performing caliber and repertoire. In an era where every gesture of a dancer, every movement by a choreographer, every syllable by a singer, every click by a photographer and every piece of costume is ‘copyrighted’, Kalanidhi mami with all her stature, utmost willingly shared an art that became accessible to her only after life’s own crude ways. These videos would discernibly be archival material, but sadly now, we might have anybody so selfless in art…..
Quality preempts quantity in most walks of life and in art, more pertinently. It may be just a handful of books that came out of her pen, but each of them are frameworks of knowledge towards elementary, essential, extensive and exhaustive comprehension of abhinaya. Her books are as animated as her good self, for the reader could very easily create imaginative choreographies while in the reading stage of the book itself. Each narrative is so simple yet deep, so impactful yet colourful, making them opportune to both performance and academic study and to the amateur and the scholar at once. In this effort to share knowledge in its most pristine manner, despite it not being her genre (rather she would perform a javali or padam) shows the mirror towards a great visionary for the arts that she was, only now, sadly we cannot hold her next edition in hand…..

Padma Bhushan, Guru Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan has left us an open treasure that has something for every soul….now sadly, the treasure will have no more additions……
May her soul rest in blissful peace…….