Audience Makes The Artist, Says Sumangala

Bengaluru-based Sumangala V Varun is a multi-talented artist. A Carnatic singer and Bharatanatyam dancer, Sumangala, a ‘B’ Grade artist with Doordarshan shares her artistic pursuits with Natyahasini in an exclusive chat. Sumangala, who has been learning music and dance since childhood thanks her parents for this. “I have been pursuing Bharatanatyam professionally for a while now. I have completed my Visharad from the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya and Senior Grade (from the Karnataka Board) and have completed my Masters in Bharatanatyam from Jain University, Bangalore in June this year. I have always been a rasika, and I have enjoyed watching several senior dancers perform,” says the ever-smiling Sumangala. 

The Bengaluru-based Bharatanatyam dancer, who has performed across cities in the country, and even in Mana Hyderabad, says: “Hyderabad is a very hospitable city. Everyone is warm and welcoming. I would love to perform there again, soon, hopefully.” Sumangala believes that it is the audience that makes the artist. “I had the good fortune to perform at Vishakapatnam at the Annamayya Vedika open stage and the audience was wonderful. Since the Vedika is right next to the beach, I was blessed to have the ocean as my audience too,” she says. 

Online Shows, The Norm: Sumangala, who has performed in Parichay Season 2, thanks Himabindu Akka and Muvva, who offered her the opportunity to perform in Parichay. “Thanks to the pandemic, online shows have become the norm now. While there are pros and cons to it, artists and rasikas can choose to be open to different media. Changing times call for a change in outlook,” says the Natya Jyothi awardee. 

Sharing her thoughts on protecting the Indian Culture and Heritage, Sumangala states: “One important step is to support and encourage artists. If the government can recognize art forms on par with sports and provide financial and infrastructural support -spaces for classes and practise, channelling and streamlining the resources towards arts among other moves – it will motivate artists.” She adds in the same breath that senior artists could curate a database of resources that can be made available for a small fee to upcoming artists. “Government and non-governmental organizations can also organize ticketed festivals and lecture demonstrations to take arts to the laypersons,” says the Bharatanatyam dancer.

Look Into Monetization: Sumangala, who is a prolific writer on Arts and Culture, is also a registered teacher and examiner under the Gandharva Mandal, feels that it is possible to survive on the Art form. “However, there are hurdles as always for artists. Every other stream of education includes an aspect of monetization; we have to seriously look into such aspects for arts also. We can conduct seminars, webinars, and engagement sessions for artists with support from established artists to learn how to be economically sustainable,” says the Kalpavriksha Nritya Nipuna and Nritya Kala Nipunasri awardee. 

Speaking about her journey, Sumangala says: “I had my initial training in Bharatanatyam at Kerala Kalalayam, Tripunithura, which was founded by the legendary dancer couple Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma. After a brief break in cultural pursuits due to academics, I resumed training in dance with renewed vigour under the loving tutelage of Vidushi Pratima Kiran and Vidushi Praveena Mohan at Kalanidhi, Udupi.” The dancer says that for the last 11 years, she has been learning under Guru Smt. Rekha Dinesh Kumar, the founder and artistic director of Benaka Natya Mandir, Bangalore. Learning under Guru Rekha’s watchful eye, she has blossomed into an involved and dedicated dancer.

Future Plans: On her future plans, Sumangala reveals that she intends to continue to explore the performing space through Margams and performing at Festivals. “I am also keen to explore thematic productions. Academia also interests me, and I hope to lean in that direction as well,” she says before signing off. 

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