Guru V S Ramamoorthy, popularly known as Master, has left behind a legacy for Hyderabadis and dance fraternity at large. After moving to Hyderabad in June 1970 and making it his home, Guru Ramammoorthy, launched Sri Rama Nataka Niketan, which to date has trained many dancers, who are settled across the city, country and world and continue to propagate his teachings. It is only once in a millennium that a man like Guru Ramamoorthy is born, who is destined to change the future, write new history and create a tradition for the benefit of mankind.
The desire to learn dance was so much in Master, that at the age of 22 years, Master began learning dance from renowned artist, Sri Kalasagara Rajagopal. He would travel from Avadi to Mylapore after office hours every day to learn dance. Alongside dance, Guru Ramamoorthy acted in amateur Sabhas and delivered some of the finest performances in the later years. It was in the year 1922 that Sri Kalasagara Rajagopal introduced Master to legendary Padma Shri Guru Sri K. N. Dandayudha Pani Pillai, who accepted Master as his first male disciple. The first milestone in this journey was the Arangetram, held on the auspicious day of India’s Independence – 15th August 1947, which also happens to be the first time Master’s parents watched him dance.
Born on 20th September 1920 in a Brahmin family to Sri Subramaniya Iyer and Smt. Parvati Ammal in Vishnampettai village, on the land of rich heritage and arts, in the city of Thanjavur, Master during his schooling got attracted to stage dramas and performed the role of Kausalya and earned his first accolade. But, in the later years at a rendering of the Ramayana, Master was utterly moved by the drama and equally enamoured by the Bharatanatyam dance performance of that age. This incident awakened Master’s sense of true purpose and made him choose his path; an amalgam of dance and drama. In 1942, upon his arrival at Madras (Chennai) as a Sub-divisional officer, he had the opportunity to learn Bharatanatyam.
Shivakamiyin Shabadam- a famous Tamil play, written by Sri Kalki Krishnamoorthy came in as a serial story for more than two years in the weekly magazine ‘Kalki’. The play was first staged by Sri Ramakrishna Kripa Amateurs on 14th April 1951 at Rasikaranjani Sabha Madras and was presided over by Sri Kalki Krishnamoorthy himself. Guru Ramamoorthy played the female lead- Shivakami – a mystical dancer. Shivakamiyin Shabadam was the most popular drama of that period that got Master wide spread recognition. Master in and as Anarkali, as Kundavi in Parthiban Kanavu, as Kaikeyi in Sri Rama Vanagamanam, as Kausalya in Godha Kalyanam are some of his merrier dance dramas.
In 1949, Guru Ramamoorthy married a compassionate lady, Smt. Rajalakshmi, and the couple was blessed with two daughters – Usha and Manjula, who are instrumental in carrying forward the family legacy. Master believed that art should never be stagnant, it should flow just like a river which always nurtures fresh soils. This ideology made him start his dance academy “Sri Devi Nritya Nikethan” in 1966 in Perambur, Chennai. His daughter Manjula was his first disciple, and the first batch included Ms. Arunasri, Ms. Rajyasri and Ms. Subbalakshmi, who performed their Arangetram on 29th March 1970 in Madras. Later that year in June, Guru Ramamoorthy was given his last posting order to Military Engineering Service, Secunderabad, thus enriching young dance learners with his vast experience and knowledge.
Master as we know, is an embodiment of art and spirituality. Along with Bharatanatyam, Master was trained in Kurathi dance. He was a composer, singer, painter and an excellent make-up artist to his students. Even at the age of 100, when approached by his students, Master did not shy away from sharing a few glimpses of his ocean like talent. For Master the stage was his life and dance his breath, who attained the Lotus Feet on 2 October 2020.
In 2021, Sri Rama Nataka Niketan celebrates 55 years of successful contribution to the propagation of the art form in India and worldwide.
~Natyahasini thanks Guru Manjula Ramaswamy for this piece.