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Artiste refuses to dance to social tunes

This month, Kalamandalam Hyder Ali passed away in renown as a superb Kathakali artiste. His life was a refutal of those who ridiculed him for taking to this "Hindu" art form more than thirty years ago.
By Ramesh Babu | None, Thiruvananthapuram
PUBLISHED ON JAN 24, 2006 01:54 AM IST

This month, Kalamandalam Hyder Ali passed away in renown as a superb Kathakali artiste. His life was a refutal of those who ridiculed him for taking to this "Hindu" art form more than thirty years ago. Now his story inspires V.P. Rubaiya, a Class X student in Kerala's Muslim-dominated Malappuram district, who faces taunts and sneers from her community for her love of Indian classical dance.

Rubaiya took to dancing at three. Recognizing her talent, her teachers offered free coaching and at times, chipped in for her trips outside the state.

Validating their faith, Rubaiya won the third prize for Bharatnatyam and Kerala Natanam, in an arts festival at Kochi and an A-grade in folk dance.

For this year's Kerala Natanam, her guru Bharathasserry Madhusoodanan has gifted her a new costume. Moreover, she has an offer from Mrinalini Sarabhai's Darpana dance academy in Ahmedabad.

But her father Syed Alavikutty, a theatre artist, is worried. "We are out of the 'mahallu' and are no longer invited for religious functions and ceremonies," he says. "It is an undeclared excommunication. I am really worried about my daughter's future because no Imam would solemnise a wedding outside the mahallu."

Nor does the family get its share of Ramzan relief and other such benefits. But, declares Alavikutty, "Come what may, she'll pursue her interest. I am sure Allah will help." Says Rubaiya, "I want to become a good dancer. I hope people who oppose my talent understand my feelings."

Rubaiya can take heart from Bharata Natyam dancer Mubina Bandukwala, a Dawoodi Bohra of Mumbai and niece of Britian’s curry king Sir Ghulam Noon, who faced a similar predicament.

"My family had no problem. Those in my community who commented doubtfully were very appreciative when they came for my arangetram (debut) and realised it was traditional and devotional, not vulgar or filmi. Now they ask about my next recital," says Mubina.

Equally heartening is the example of Malaysia's celebrated dancer, Ramli Ibrahim, who fully satisfied his country's religious board years ago that dancing the Hindu temple arts of Odissi and Bharata Natyam did not conflict with his faith.

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