Rajeswari Sainath, now a doctorate in laya

Rajeswari Sainath with her Ph. D guide Dr. Prameela Gurumurthy at the Kalaimamani function in Chennai

In conversation with Natyahasini, the Master dancer, Rajeswari Sainath, says that it was always fascinating to make an in-depth connection between the cosmic rhythm- the supreme laya to that with its application in our system of Indian Carnatic music and dance. “Therefore, I decided to do Ph. D. about layam as perceived by a dancer – a hitherto unattempted area in Bharatanatyam. It took me four-and-a-half years to complete my Ph. D. under Dr. Prameela Gurumurthy – Former Head of the Dept., University of Madras- Chennai and presently the Vice- Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Music and Dance University, Govt. of Tamil Nadu,” the dance exponent says. Rajeswari also holds degrees in Commerce, Law and a Postgraduate in Public-Personal Management.

Speaking about her Ph. D. guide, Rajeswari Sainath says that Dr. Prameela Gurumurthy is a doyen of Education in Fine arts with a great family lineage. “She is a renowned artiste who has been trained under Musiri Subramanya Iyer, T K Govinda Rao, B Rajam Iyer, Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer, T M Thyagarajan and T Muktha. Last part of the thesis was guided by Dr. S Subbulakshmi,” says the new doctorate. Giving an insight into her doctorate, Rajeswari says the topic is – ‘A Study On Time Management Of Karaikudi Mani’s Laya Patterns In Bharatanatyam’. “It is an inter-disciplinary thesis – drawing comparison to macro cosmos with micro cosmos taking the element of time management,” she states. 

On its translation into dance performance, the dance exponent reveals that sometimes one gets a Ph. D., but nothing can be put in action, but in her case it is different. “In my case it is the other way, where I have with my dancing experience of four-and-a-half decades and mentored by the legend Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani himself for 30 years, I have put all that I have been dancing the new – unattempted laya patterns in my thesis and therefore all practical dancing has entered in to my document,” says Rajeswari.

Lockdown helped: On acquiring a doctorate, managing teaching performing, family and study, Rajeswari admits that it was very hectic for the first three years and later the lock down was very appropriately used for this purpose. ‘A-top’ grade artiste by Doordarshan Kendra, Chennai, Rajeswari was initiated into dance by her mother Mrs. Meenakshi Natarajan, while her father Mr. Natarajan was a Carnatic vocalist. Rajeswari, director of Sruthi Laya Kendra Natarajaalaya, has choreographed and performed on diverse themes – mythological, social, women empowerment, environment, medical etc. in an array of languages. “I would say my ‘Vishnu Sahasranamam’ ballet and English ballet ‘Gandhari’ was challenging and very intense for its sensitive portrayal of the character,” she says. Apart from creating awareness on organ donation through a ballet, Rajeswari has dealt with Neurobiology of dance – connecting mind and body with regard to neural circuits modulating through dance.

Prodding on the time taken to conceptualise and bring a ballet on board, Rajeswari says that every project involves script writer, director, musicians, recording engineer, composer etc. whose services are very intense and unique for they have a great level of expertise. “The process becomes very challenging at every level until it comes on board. Since most of my recordings are monitored by the legend Guru Karaikudi Mani ji, Raj Kumar Bharathi ji, the product is very unique. Therefore, I would credit it to all those people involved in the production,” she says.

Ability to still dance: On best moment of her journey, she says: “What I can treasure is the ability to still dance with zest and energy that makes me happy and confident to listen to my inner-self – evoking various emotions in my day-to-day life.” Rajeswari says her dream performance has been her solo Bharatanatyam concert in Sydney Opera House main concert hall in 2013 to a packed audience. “My collaboration with Australian musicians has taught me to come out of my box to experience the newness of Bharatanatyam when performed with Jazz musicians of international calibre. All the more performing in Hyderabad to my audience who have been a great support,” says the artist. 

On sharing the stage with her equally talented daughter dancer Vyshnavie, Rajeswari smiles. “I give away the portrayal of glamour-oriented character to her. As a matured and senior artiste by experience and age, we need to choose our roles carefully. I don’t believe in portraying a character that does not suit your physical appearance. The combination of myself and my daughter Vyshnavie is a combo of tradition in me and dynamism of this generation in her to come with new movements as she has learnt multiple styles. We enjoy doing together,” she acknowledges.

Rajeswari has trained innumerable students both in India and abroad and feels that there is so much to come up with new creativity which is enormous in all areas of dance- be it laya, abhinaya, costume designing, light designing etc. “All this is possible only when you invest your time and energy by devoting to this artform. To always keep your physical and mental health in best level,” she says on a note of positivity.

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