Today’s Bharatanatyam performances in Madras…. and Urmila Sathyanarayanan




My friend VRD said that some NRI dancers have adopted a new strategy: they try to hide where they studied “Bharatanatyam” (rock-n-roll, actually). Today I was lucky to discover Shivani Thakkar’s web site. Guess if I went to watch her performance after looking at the photo of this clumsy winner of the Verizon Wireless and Saavn Bollypop Competition in belly and hip-hop dance:

clumsy shivani the rock-n-roll dancer

clumsy shivani the rock-n-roll dancer

I was not so lucky (I was 40 minute late, but I wish I didn’t go at all!) when I did go to watch Abirami Selvakumar’s programme. While many ads state the guru’s name, this time there was no guru mentioned. And the guru was not in the hall, either, which was quite unusual of Urmila Sathyanarayanan. Were she there, she would burn with shame for such a “Bharatanatyam”. Abirami was dancing like a 70-year-old woman who has not been eating anything for 1 month. That is, she hardly lifted her feet while doing steps, and could hardly turn, or lift her arm.

The most amazing was that… Abirami Selvakumar cannot do attami at all! That is, her neck does not move sideways even for a centimetre!!! Bravo! While the ancient devadasis used to dance for 8 hours non-stop, Abirami – after a 10-minute break – resembled a steamer. Aha! This is why Urmila Sathyanarayanan was not there! Urmila has a good taste, and her students’ costumes are well-made, and usually are… white and red. Very powerful conbination. Urmila’s favourite colours. By the way, I am curious to know more about that recent scandal when Urmila’s DVDs were – “without her permission” – released by Raj TV and made their way to appear on and partly on YouTube (someone was commenting there about this incident).

Urmila herself used to be a graceful and charming (or rather, sexy) dancer. No doubt she was dancing in some king’s harem in her past life… Her abhinaya is earthly and very “seductive”. Average lokadharmi. Nothing too elevating. Her expressions change each other so sharply that it looks comic. Lately her experssions started resembling the expressions of the frustrated rag pickers in Tambaram. She badly needs some lessons from Uma Namboodripad. Surely Urmila was not a devadasi dancing somewhere in a temple’s mandappam. No way. A Friday Review describes her recital as “meditative”, but Urmila’s meditativeness looks as cheap as a cabaret dancer’s. No comparison with really meditative dancers like Divya Prabhakar! Oh Urmila….this cute featherbrain doll is too shallow to attepmt even anything close to Alarmel Valli.

Todays Abirami Selvakumar’s nattuvanar & vocalist was Mr.Suresh, Urmila’s beau.

This man can somehow manage to sing with his mouth half-shut (Anjana Rajan in the Hindu’s euphemism describes it as “contained singing of S.K.Suresh”!), and he squeeks like an old mouse in its sleep. What, vocalists 100 years ago used to sing without a microphone? How, would Mr.Suresh ask??? If it were not for his model looks (this guy is really handsome, clean-cut, self-contained, and maintains a “noble” appearance)….

S K Suresh

I do not know what kind of training he got at Kalakshetra, ok, he should be a good dancer too. But as a vocalist! No, no, no! During the break, while he was singing something, many of the 300-strong audience fell asleep (including two people sitting and snoring next to me!) .

Usually, Urmila’s bharatanatyam students are good (she can afford not to take in any totally useless students), many are very good like Swathy Ashok (this one is a bit like Shobana, but cannot do the attami, and has poor eye control, her smile jumps on and off as unsteadily as Urmila’s), and some are excellent like Amritha Varshini Murali

Amritha Varshini Murali

(this girl is really superb and refined!).

Anwesha Das was nearly excellent in 2004 Anweshya Das

, but now Padma Subrahmaniam looks better. To lose so much within 3 years!!!!!

11 thoughts on “Today’s Bharatanatyam performances in Madras…. and Urmila Sathyanarayanan

  1. I am surprised that a blog permits such trash to be posted specially from people who remain anonymous as they do not have the guts to face up to the utter rubbish they have written. Such trash should removed immediately and the writer brought to book – if he or she has any guts.

    While constructive critisism is always welcome and we receive it regularly in the press such slanderous material in web site must be avoided if you want to maintain any self respect of your site.

  2. Yes, trash should removed immediately, and will be removed.
    Write what is “slanderous material” here, and we will remove it. The blog is a compilation/synthesis from different sources, and if you provide a proof that something is wrong, we will change it.

    Urmila, we like you very much and respect you, but since you are a celebrity, there is celebrity gossip. Please clarify the case with Raj TV and why you chose not to be present at that lame recital of Abirami Selvakumar.

    We are sorry to tell you that your assistant, Mr.Suresh, is only (marginally) considered as a “carnatic vocalist” because of your students’ programmes. If the students’ parents do not have the guts to tell you this, it is because you scared them so much.

    By the by, Urmila, do you respect the gurus who threaten to chuck out of the dance school those of their students who do not attend their schoolmates programmes? Such gurus use fear, not respect, as their tool. If some programmes are bad, why should anyone be forced to attend these?

  3. Sangitaratnakara in its 3rd Chapter (prakirnakadhyaya) describes 25 types of defective singers, and the number one is:

    1. Sandasta – one who keeps his teeth (jaws) too close while singing

  4. S.K.SURESH is not from Kalakshetra. He learnt Dance Music and Nattuvangam from his grandfather Late Swamimalai Rajarathnam Pillai {his maternal grandmother’s younger brother, and my father} under gurukula method. SKR was known for his golden voice for both nattuvangam and vocal. The success of his students’ programmes was attributed to his excellent vocal and nattuvangam. Trained under him in nattuvangam and in vocal under The Great violin Maestro Lalgudi G.Jayaraman, Suresh received The Best Bharathanatyam Musician Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha last year.Many people think, Like SKR, Suresh’s singing is contributing for the success of Urmila’s programmes

  5. Any politically-connected dancer can make a sizeable “donation” to Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and buy her buddies “Best Bharathanatyam Musician Awards”. Whatever the awards, the fact that he cannot sing is obvious to most rasikas who are not his relatives.

  6. Urmila is quickly losing her grace. She has been learning from A.Lakshman so much that now she can only dance like a man! She learnt the western modern dance. Just look at her nritta abhinaya, there is only one fixed expression on her face! She struggles to dance fast, but is not longer able to do it (aging?), so she makes lots of shortcuts.

  7. I agree with Urmila………these dancers have spent life times in achieving what they have achieved…..very easy to criticise and constructive critique does help in bettering ones art, but writing such trash on this website says more about the person that writes the material than the person it talks about, Age and physical condition is important but as one matures the dance takes different dimensions and if we as an audience cannot see it……then its our incapability not the dancers.

  8. Ashwin, you write that “as one matures the dance takes different dimensions”.

    Can you tell us what these ” dimensions” are, and if the ancient scriptures mention these. If I am incapable to see the Emperor’s new clothes, whose fault is it? Poor me!

    If you mean something like “the depth of Bhavas”, then you either have not seen many teens some of whom already do these 100 times better than the worn-out feelings of Urmila.

    Or if you want to be really serious, get the Natya Shastra and tell us in serious terms. 🙂

  9. i loe you bharathnatyammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  10. Wow … you don’t mince your words do you? What can I say? thank god you are anonymous! 😀

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