Interview with B Chandrasekhar
Your mother was a great artiste, how did this inspire you as a child?
She was an unbelievable combination of artistic ability, creativity, perseverance and hard work. It was impossible to do anything but to stand in awe of her. Do I have something of her? Perhaps 0.001%. I did not even try to be like her it was far, far beyond me.
Having been surrounded by artistes in the family, have you yourself learnt any art form?
I never had the patience to persevere in the arts. My singing was confined to humming, my Mridangam to Junior level, but Nattuvangam? Yes that is something where I can say I reached some sort of okay level. Sports, upto college level was easier as it happened in that routine.
You have had a brilliant academic background, having studied at IIT and IIM, has this complemented your interest in dance?
I have always believed that life devoid of the aesthetic aspect would be somehow incomplete, so I made it a point to involve in it in some role or another. All institutes of higher learning do have cultural programs of fairly good quality happening round the year.
You are a successful businessman and a great art connoisseur. Usually this would be an oxymoron, but not so in your case. Could you please tell us how you perceive these two?
Part of this is answered above but in business you tend to get into a one (profit) track! Arts take you to a higher level spiritually. No doubt, business can bring prosperity but that only means more material perquisites.
Art forms are many. Likewise is mime. Only a few have seen the theatrical Chandrasekhar. Please throw light on how you developed this talent.
A close friend of mine of old, Suhas Sardesai, told me about a mime show he had seen and described it to me. He had made available some astonishing details with which I could reconstruct the mime with his help, somehow it has clicked. (I have not really cultivated it!
Could you please recollect one of your favourite memories of working with Guru Bhanumati and Bharatanjali?
Bharatanjali, as it evolved in its early days is indescribable. I was very fortunate to be part of it. The core group was an unbelievable combination of – not just like minded but – almost many bodies with one soul. The single minded devotion to the cause – ‘success of Bharatanjali’ – was equally shared by the dancers, accompanists (including me) and driven by Bhanumati’s conviction and passion. On one occasion we were all performing live on a makeshift stage somehow made with loose planks tied together with some sort of rope but far from firm. Sitting among the accompanists and watching Rama, Sita and Lakshmana going up and down in the wings, perfectly to rhythm, as two dancers performed the early part of Jaya Janakiramana was hilarious, to say the least. Bharatanjali was synonymous with adjustment. No matter what the inconveniences or discomfort there was only comedy, never complaint.
While working on new choreographies, Guru Bhanumati wishes to have you see it first and give your opinion. Do elaborate on this process.
I have had that privilege along with others including my father. I looked at it just like a member of the audience and she always presented alternatives to choose from, so that was easy. Somehow she trusted my judgement and also perhaps felt that an outside view may be of use. The final say was of course how it panned out for the ease of performance for the dancers.
You have been known to be a great critic of dance. How would you comment on the dance scenario of Bengaluru in the last 10 years? Also tell us how one could be a good critic?
There are many, many ‘Gurus’ now so there are that many students of dance and performers too. Classical excellence is no more the watchword with the average dancer of today. It is more about being seen as often as possible. The responsibility that goes with showcasing such a great ancient tradition does not seem to have sunk with the performers, a bit sad. There is always a dilution in numbers and so we have numbers and we have dilution too. A critic must have a good eye for aesthetics and a thorough grounding in the performing tradition, not necessarily as a performer but even as a connoisseur. He must be impartial and honour tradition no matter who the dancer or guru is. I had myself severely criticised one arangetram for its ‘instant ‘ flavour, in an Economic Times review and the guru was Bhanumati.
Your voice is truly magical. You have been Guru Bhanumati’s first Nattuvanar, in the Bharatanjali recordings many slokas are recited by you, not to mention the best compering for dance programs, Rangapraveshas and more. Please share with us how one can equip them in this area as there is a dire need for apt compering in dance recitals.
In the olden days compering was mere announcement. Raga Tala and a small summary just to take the meaning of the lyrics across to the audience. Today, in common concerts the crowd is not so well informed, so it is a good idea to keep the profile of the audience in mind and give some inputs that will enable people to relate to the meaning of the lyrics than giving the meaning itself. Puradaradasa’s composition of more than four centuries antiquity needs to be explained in context. Though nothing else has changed since the Saint Poet composed the songs. The key is knowing the general profile of the viewers and then moderating the explanation so as to communicate the import of the song and dance appropriately.
Bhanumati Ma'am and Sheela Ma'am have always beautifully balanced their professional and family lives. You have seen the best of both. In these lines, what would be your advice to young dancers?
One simple lesson I learnt. There is no short cut to success. The hard work and near oblivion that Bhanumati has come through is testimony to her principle. 'Keep doing what you are doing and let the results take care of themselves’. She never once despaired that far lesser dancers were in limelight, while she was languishing, unknown. As for Sheela, she had the courage to completely give up dance (dance is only next to her heartbeat) for years together while she looked after the children.
She was always aching for dance but never ever allowed it to come out as such. Once the children grew up she was back full swing but again when my father needed attention that was her first priority and that too without flinching a wee bit. I was travelling a lot on work and most of my responsibilities were also taken care of by these two at home. Life is a set of priorities. Different priorities dominate at different stages, the important thing is to recognise them weight them and act accordingly.
You have been a friend, philosopher, guide to many people trying to find their way through life. Do tell us what inspires and guides your life.
Life is short so don’t waste time in sadness. Be happy. You can’t change the past nor know the future, so avoid regret and tension. Be honest to yourself first and then to others – it is easier that way. Anger is temporary madness, be sane always. Give money its due, but there are higher things than money in life so limit your quest for this most important and inevitable resource to meet your needs and see how you can help others with their resources. Try to touch as many lives as possible in your journey, these have been my basic guiding principles.