Two names in this year's national awards for cinema reflect an interesting crossover between classical and pop culture — in the very same film. They are Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan and Carnatic violin maestro Padma Bhushan Lalgudi G Jayaraman.
Lalgudi has composed the music and Khan has choreographed the dance sequences for the feature film
(Tamil, with English sub-titles) by Chennai-based debut director Sharada Ramanathan. Sringaram has also won the national award for best cinematography, by ace cameraman Madhu Ambat.
A period film set in the 1920s about a
in Tamil Nadu,
is Khan's first attempt to work with a purely classical Bharata Natyam format in cinema. "She picked up its logic really fast and did a fantastic job!" enthuses director Ramanathan, whose professional admiration for Khan led her to invite the Bollywood choreographer to Chennai. Challenged by the film's classical South Indian theme, says Ramanathan, watched Bharata Natyam intently and made rapid mental notes on how to render this essentially solo dance form into believable and aesthetic group movements. Her triumph is the
or temple procession sequence by a troupe of
. The dance also had to reflect the intimacy of the
relationship with the particular temple they were attached to. Until the
Abolition Act of 1936, a temple dancer proudly wore the insignia of her deity tattooed on her arms (say, a conch and discuss for Vishnu). While totally a service sector for the patriarchal temple set-up, she had agency in her art at least. This reflected in her confident body language and in the proud consciousness that she danced to serve Divinity. Khan had to take in all these nuances of the
sub-culture to get her moves right. "And she did! The national award is a recognition of her skill and adaptability," cheers Ramanathan.
Chennai-based maestro Jayaraman says he enjoyed the first-time experience. He chose evocative
like Sahana, Raga Kedar in Hindustani music and the grand