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In Conversation With Madurai R. Muralidharan

Jeyanthi Ghetraju and Ranjani Saigal
10/15/2008

Madurai R. Muralidharan is a well known performing dancer, dance-guru, composer, and musician, who has composed over 120 varnams, produced several dance dramas on various themes and dance music albums in all the 35 thalas, which is unparalleled in the field of Bharatanatyam. Sri Muralidharan, is a board member of Alagappa Performing Arts (Alagappa University, Karaikkudi, India) offering  Online degree course in Bharatha Natyam. He is on a short visit to the USA to meet all the dancers and dance teachers from various states to create awareness and explain about the degree course in Bharatha Natyam which was started recently by Alagappa University.    
 
You were a pioneer in composing new items, what inspired you to start composing new items?
 
I couldn't find any compositions related to male dancers, which could be easier to express from the aspect of male emotions.  The songs that existed, especially varnams, were describing nayaki's feelings and their stories predominantly.
 
Could you tell us a little about your background?
 
 I come from a very middle class family, who struggled to teach this art to my sister, Manimekalai and myself. I persevered and learnt dance from Kalaimamani Chamundeswari, who is the senior disciple of Padmashree Sri. K.N.Dhandayadhapani Pillai, and vocal from my guru, Sri. Madurai T. Sethuraman.
 
As a man, was it difficult to take dance as a career?
 
Yes, I felt very difficult initially and all my family members were against this, except my parents. But I have succeeded without giving importance to that. At the same time, I have faced a lot of challenges, insults, and failures before becoming a full fledged artiste.
 
Your voice is so much like Madurai Sethuraman, was he a big influence in your life?
 
Yes, Madurai T. Sethuraman is my vocal guru. My voice might be similar to his voice because I am following his way or style. Of course, he is a big influence in my life.
 
Can you tell us a little about your dance school and its activities. We hear that you've started a scholarship program and perform group arangetrams for deserving students who come from poor families.

My dance school "Nrithyakshethra Dance Academy" was started by My Guru's mother Smt.Samanthagamani Palaniandy, 45 years ago, and it was in the care of my Guru.  My guru had an opportunity to settle abroad after her marriage.  She handed over the school to me and I am running this school for the past 30 years.  Now many students are coming from all over the world for training. At present I am training nearly 200 students along with my wife, Chithra Muralidharan.    
 
What do you think is the future of Bharatanatyam?
 
The future of Bharatanatyam will be healthy if there is unity between the local teachers both in India and abroad. All the dancers and dance teachers should leave their ego and be ready to share their knowledge in dance.
 
What advice do you have for students of Bharatanatyam?
 
- Learn the dance without any doubt
- Learn from one Guru, with passion and not for passing time.
- Wait for the Guru's order to do arangetram.  
- Practice makes perfect and so, practice as much as you can.

Thanks so much for your time

Thank you



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