Interview

Moments like these…

Acclaimed Bharatanatyam artiste, Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala shares why working with Apsaras Arts and Aravinth Kumarasamy has been a blessing in her life.

Please talk to us about your association with Apsaras Arts and Aravinth Kumarasamy?

My association with Apsaras Arts and Aravinth began about 20 years ago. I was very busy then with a hectic performance career. One of those times, Aravinth’s mother watched my performance, and wanted to get in touch with me. I came to know through my mridangist, Nellai Kannan that someone in the audience had liked my dance very much and wanted to talk to me. I didn’t know who it was. Many years passed…

And then, once when we were in an ABHAI meeting many years ago, Aravinth came to see Dr Padma Subrahmanyam, Padukka as we call her. I was introduced to him and that is when he said, my mother used to love your performance and always wanted to talk to you.

I was thrilled.

It was like a reunion of sorts. We began a conversation and I visited Singapore and that is where it all began. Aravinth invited me to collaborate on his project – The Heroiens of Raja Ravi Varma. He structured it for me and lent me great support in terms of choreography. I felt a lot of comfort with him. The production turned out beautiful. And there has been no looking back, since. We are like family. Bonding with Apsaras Arts and Aravinth has been a great blessing for me.

What was it like to collaborate with Apsaras Arts on the heroines of Raja Ravi Varma?

All the dancers who were a part of the production were well-trained and disciplined. The costume designing was done by Neila Mami ( Neila Sathyalingam) and later by Mohanapriyan and Aravinth. They have a very good sense of aesthetics and bring nuance to their productions.

I had a lot of fun in their company. It was a very friendly environment. They are all very sincere, hard-working and confident people in general and I must say that I learnt a lot being with them. We exchanged views, thoughts and a lot on the choreographic process.

Tell us about how it was to present Apsaras Arts and Priyan’s solo at your prestigious Kala Pradarshini festival?

The production on Raja Ravi Varma was first premiered in Singapore by Apsaras Arts at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in 2011. This premier season of 3 shows was well received. Later, I invited them to perform this as part of the Natya Festival by my dance company, Kalapradarshini. I still remember we had a packed audience and many from the Chennai dance fraternity were present.

Aravinth also introduced me to other dancers and teachers in Singapore. I had the opportunity to present one of mt iconic production “Ucthithialagam” working with the Kesavan Sisters and their students at Bharatha Dance Academy in Singapore.

Mohanapriyan also performed a solo for the Kalapradarshini festival, with Aravinth on the nattuvangam. This was one of his early solo performance in Chennai. Mohanapriyan and I performed together for the Brahmakumaris in the presence of all the Matajis and the then for the Governor of Tamilnadu. We did the Geethopadesam in which he was Krishna and I was Arjuna. It came out very well. We also performed another program, Krishna Madhuryam at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. So this association has been going very steadily to this day. Mohanapriyan is a wonderful choreographer and beautiful dancer who you can keep watching for hours. Apsaras Arts has groomed him very well.

What are some of your strong impressions of Neila Sathiyalingam Maami?

Neila mami was a great humble soul. She was a wonderful guru with a motherly touch. That love was always visible in her eyes. She showered a lot of love on everyone. Honestly, you cannot say she is no more, as she is still living inside us. Her eye for beauty and creativity was inspiring, she could recreate the costumes and adornments painted by Raja Ravi varma, to dress the dancers, as if the painted heroines came alive. As a senior veteran choreographer and guru, Neila Mami encouraged me and also was humble to let me choreograph on her students. She introduced me to senior dancer Roshni Pillay Kesavan in Singapore and I had the opportunity to work with her in choreographing the role of Damayanthi for the Raja Ravi Varma project.

We used to meet her every time she visited Chennai. For all this, I should thank Aravinth, who takes great pains to come and visit me every time he is in Chennai. He is able to connect with so many people.

In terms of artistic values, what are some of the things you think Apsaras Arts productions stand for?

To witness one of their productions, I flew to Singapore. The stage, the sets, the music, the choreography, the dance… It was a live show and I wish I could watch it all over again. The ballet was truly mind-blowing. Dr Rajkumar Bharathi had composed the music which was wonderful. It looked like I was in the heavens and watching this production.

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