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Profile: Meenakshi Chitharanjan

Rama Sriram
03/17/2009

Meenakshi Chitharanjan is a renowned Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and a choreographer of Pandanallur style at Chennai and a recipient of many prestigious awards including NrityaChoodamani, Kalaimamani, Natya Selvam, Natya Ilavarasi and the "Padma Shri", which she received from the President of India in January 2008. Trained by the famous Pandanallur Chockalingam Pillai and his son Subbaraya Pillai, Meenakshi has mastered this style with self-will, self-discipline and determination.

She didn't choose Bharatanatyam, she said, but Bharatanatyam chose her. It was her mother Savithri’s passion for dance and family support that helped Meenakshi emerge a wonderful dancer. Her formal training in dance began at the age of 4 and she followed the curriculum diligently.

Though Meenakshi completed her arangetram at the age of 9, She said, “it's only during my teenage, I was able to understand what I was doing and started developing interest towards dance.” As a dancer, she has performed extensively in India and abroad in about 6oo shows.

According to Meenakshi, the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam is characterized by purity of line and form, precision and subtlety of expression. As a dancer and a choreographer, she said, “I work on bringing about a novel freshness while upholding the sanctity of the traditional Pandanallur style.”
 
To become a Bharatanatyam dancer, Meenakshi thinks it's very essential to be blessed with the divine grace. "Since it's an expensive art, one needs a strong financial background to be able to find the right platform and also need moral support at all times."

Meenakshi said she was fortunate to get the extended support from her in-laws as well, after marriage. Her husband, Arun Chitharanjan, an orthodontist at chennai, also had a great love for music and dance. They’ve been constantly encouraging her to pursue a career, applauded all her efforts and acknowledged all her successes happily, that helped Meenakshi continue to dance and pass on this great tradition to a wide range of young children and adults from India and abroad, through her dance school Kaladiksha at Mylapore, Chennai.

She started this School of dance under the influence of the famous mridangist   Pandanallur Srinivasa Pillai in the year 1991.After him, his son Pandian, a brilliant nattuvangist and a creative choreographer, joined hands with Meenakshi in preserving this wonderful art form for more than a decade now at Kaladiksha. Pandian also runs a school for Nattuvangam and accompanies Meenakshi for most of her performances.
 
To Meenakshi, teaching is a "second learning", as it helps her grow and be creative. As a teacher, she "has a heart to give more to her students." At the same time, she expects 100% dedication from the students as well. She emphasizes that the young dancers should be regular in attending the classes to keep up their physical fitness and improve concentration powers and skills. "This is a high voltage physical activity wherein you need to keep up your stamina".

As an artist, and a teacher, she wants to go miles in this ocean. Having been exposed to one of the best styles of dance, she has taken it her way of life and aims to propagate it.



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