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Of her evocative movements
A renowned bharatanatyam dancer and a mother, Srinidhi shrugs off labels as easily as she performs a complex mudra in a padam. "I don’t think too much about such labels...and if you do, work ceases,” she says laughingly. A child prodigy of sorts, Srinidhi was only four when she began her classical training with the well-known bharatanatyam guru and Padma Bhushan awardee Kamala, who herself had been prodigiously talented in her childhood.
For the love of dance
I ask Srinidhi whether she ever complained about the rigour at such an early age. "I don’t have too many memories of either asking to go to a dance class or refusing to go to one. All I remember is standing in front of a mirror and often imitating or practising dance moves,” she recalls.
Srinidhi went on to perform her rangapravesham when she was only seven years old. Accolades and awards followed soon after. Later, she began training extensively under S K Rajarathnam, one of the most prominent gurus of the Vazhuvoor style, which lays more emphasis on realistic abhinaya and a wider range of natya movements.
Born to doctor parents, Srinidhi grew up seeing her parents’ discipline and commitment. "I never thought studying to become a doctor and training extensively in bharatanatyam would ever clash - my parents made me competent. It was hard work, there is no denying that; but I loved both and that perhaps made the crucial difference,” explains Srinidhi.
Srinidhi believes, in fact, dance helped her become more focused in her studies. "When studying medicine got to me, dance was my outlet. The only compromise I made is not choosing a clinical specialty; I instead chose to do my MD in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. But I am dedicated to both and my focus has always been on quality in both the fields,” she says.
A recent recipient of the prestigious Nrithyachoodamani title from the famous Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai, Srinidhi was chosen to curate the 36th edition of Gana Sabha’s Natya Kala Conference that was held during the December 'season’. The conference, titled 'Sthiti Gati’, focussed on the art form’s history as well as its future.
Several eminent dancers, including actor and dancer Vyjayanthimala Bali, Malavika Sarukkai, Anita Ratnam, Padma Subrahmanyam and Shobana, were part of the conference that had discussions ranging from bharatanatyam on the big screen to ways of making the classical form more accessible.
Making bharatanatyam more 'accessible’ is also one of Srinidhi’s many dreams. I ask her about how open the dance form is to innovation in this age of instant gratification. "I always maintain bharatanatyam needs more innovation in terms of the subject matter and not its form - its form is solid enough to encompass the whole universe. Many dancers are now trying to improvise; but inventiveness is still in a nascent stage,” she feels.
Srinidhi herself experiments with modern and contemporary themes in her performances. She mentions a padam that she recently performed. Titled avasara gaana, the padam in Tamil is a tale of a working mother singing a 'hurried lullaby’ to her baby as she has to leave for work and the baby is yet to nod off. She loves her baby and cannot see it perturbed; she loves her job too - so she cuddles and sings to her baby hoping it would go to sleep quickly and she can then leave for work in peace.
"Being a mother, I completely related to the padam and so did many others. We were overwhelmed with the audience response… it just goes to show us that the form is alive and what it needs is some strong infusions of creative thinking,” says Srinidhi.
The dancer goes on to talk about how, despite the mushrooming of dance schools, there is a dearth of quality. "Also, people do not consider classical dancing as a professional career and understandably so. For traditional dance forms to survive and thrive, our mental make-up as well as our educational system must see an overhaul,” she says.
For Srinidhi though, life has been constantly evolving and overhauling itself. But her twin passions, dance and 'doctorhood’, have always stood by her. Considering how successful she has been in straddling both her professions, it is evident she thrives on the challenges being a doctor-dancer entails.