Social Media Star of The Week: Bharatnatayam dancer Harini Nilakantan
Enrolled into Bharatanatyam classes in Bengaluru when she was four years old, Harini Nilakantan continued her love for the art form after making her professional debut in 2008 as a nine-year-old, through school, college and now on social media during the pandemic.
When the Reels video made by the 22-year-old, now based in Chicago, recently went viral as she did Bharatanatyam steps to a Western classical number, her Instagram following went to 52k.
“I hated TikTok till I joined it in May 2020 and did the #SavageDanceChallenge, giving it a Bharatanatyam twist, which took my followers from 200 to 1.2k. That encouraged me while also giving me an opportunity to showcase our culture,” explains Harini who is going back to school to pursue a BFA in furniture design. She moved her content to Instagram when her fanbase in India was affected by the TikTok ban.
“People in North America know very surface level things about India and the Indian culture showcased is what you see in films. They don’t know India has so many other industries, languages or cultural diversity. And South India has no representation except for a scene with a bad accent in Chennai Express,” she explains when we ask her about dancing in her full attire.
Admitting that she’s faced casual racism, Harini confesses that the worst trolling has come from Indians — purists who think she is disrespecting tradition. “I’m just a girl dancing in her bedroom,” she shrugs, refusing to let negative comments bog her down. In fact, she is encouraged by her very desi parents who share her videos on family WhatsApp groups!
“Please don’t bury your talents because someone makes a noise about you being culturally different,” Harini concludes.
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From HT Brunch, September 5, 2021
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