Kalamandalam Sungandhi has been honoured by the Sangeet Natak Akademi for her invaluable contributions to Mohiniyattom.
Scholar and danseuse: Kalamandalam Sugandhi
Although Mohiniyattom has its roots in Kerala, not many Mohiniyattom danseuses from the State have won recognition at the national level. In the 50-year history of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi, only three Mohiniyattom exponents from Kerala have been honoured. Two of them are non-Keralites. Against this backdrop, the Akademi award to Kalamandalam Sugandhi, which was announced recently, deserves special mention.
True that the Mohiniyattom course introduced in Kalamandalam by Vallathol in 1932 was fraught with many teething problems. The institution was able to evolve a style and repertoire of its own only with the advent of Chinnammu Amma and her student Kalamandalam Sathyabhama during the Fifties. Among the students who underwent training during the formative period of the dance form in the Sixties, Kalamandalam Sugandhi stood out for her exceptionally graceful artistry and drive for research. She graduated in 1969. Those were the days when the style of the dance form itself was in the making. Interestingly, it was on her that `kondakettu,' the coiffure peculiar to Mohiniyattom, was experimented upon by her guru Kalamandalam Sathyabhama. The late M.K.K. Nair, chairman of Kalamandalam and managing director of FACT, Udyogamandalm, was so impressed by her potential that he invited her to join the Fine Arts wing of FACT as a teacher of Mohiniyattom in 1970 - a post she held till 2002. The stint at FACT was a blessing as it gave her an opportunity to interact with celebrities, especially those in the field of Kathakali. There were plenty of opportunities for experimentation and study and Sugandhi, endowed with a rare quest for knowledge, used them to develop her talent.
Innumerable choreographies and compositions apart, Sugandhi delved deep into Natyasastra, for the studies of which she accepted Padma Subramaniam as her guru.
Sugandhi's workshops and demonstrations could throw much light on the tenets of the treatise that defined the framework of Mohiniyattom.
The opprobrium that the dance form had earned during the days of its evolution, as "a poor cousin of Bharatanatyam," could be dispelled to a great extent owing to Sugandhi's esoteric contribution.
A graduate in Malayalam, she has also a strong footing in Sanskrit.
Her literary prowess is also reflected in her translation of Dr Padma Subramaniam's book in Tamil, `Bharatakalai Kotpad' into Malayalam with the title, `Bharatakala Lakshanam'.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu