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In Conversation With Sujata Vijayaraghavan

Nirmala Garimella

“ Sujatha Vijayaraghavan has brought out the essence of the Tyagaraja Aradhana festival in Cleveland. The crisp and lucid language of the report has helped those who did not attend the festival this year to obtain a visual image of it.- ” A feedback comment in Sruti , the arts and music magazine from Chennai.

“.Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, a committee member, as well as a prominent scholar and musician, compeered the show with great dignity.” - The event is a Sanchari competition, held by Natyarangam, the dance wing of the Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai.

“The opening paper, "The playmate as the soulmate", was presented by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan. Musician and choreographer, Sujatha brought out in simple terms how the verses of Andal present a familial set up where children grow up considering one's cousin as one's beloved, since such marriages have always been prevalent in Tamil ethos”.- A review of the Celebration of Andal, in Tamil Literature.

“Assisted by SUJATHA VIJAYARAGHAVAN, who provides the research, script and music, Rhadha has produced several dance dramas and thematic presentations which have won accolades in India and abroad” – on a page in the web site of Smt Rhadha

Coming face to face with Sujata Vijayaraghavan is to have a conversation with an intelligent, articulate and pleasing personality. We are in fact sitting in the elegant living room of her equally talented daughter Sunanda Narayan,where the décor clearly indicates the artistic and creative impulse of its residents.

To understand the depth and volume of her creativity however it is important to leave Boston for the moment and head to the seat of Carnatic tradition and culture – Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Here, high above the hubbub and noise of the city , is a place where patronage and promise are preserved for the less privileged but well deserving children . This is an annual Sabha that Sujata spearheads, “ Children who hold promise are provided a forum in the Sabha that I organize with the help of local volunteers where they can showcase their talents at relatively no cost to them. It is a way of encouraging preserving and nurturing talent,” says Sujata

Back to the present. She is visiting her daughter Sunanda Narayan , a dancer and teacher in the Greater Boston area and uses her time here by holding summer camps to kids to teach the essence and form of the dance. To her a student of Bharatanatyam should learn music as well, since the style can be best expressed once the dancer understands the nuances of the art. We ask her about the importance of a highly ostentatious Arangetram that are becoming the rage of the day.She shares the view that this has also become the norm in India but believes that parents must be given the choice of how they would like the event to be. To quote from a piece on Bharatanatyam written by her “ The very attractiveness of the art at the superficial level is the factor that lures the girls and their parents. Who would not like his child to be dolled up in dazzling finery “ and then “Arangetram is a more a social function to show off the parent’s affluence than showcase the child’s proficiency in art. Very often, this alone is the motivation to pursue the art. Which is a sad thing for the pupil,the parent and the art “

Sujata has had a checkered life. Her biodata speaks volumes on her creativity, talent and expertise. She is an accomplished choreographer, a fine musician and has given performances all over in Carnatic vocal music, Hindustani Bhajans and Light music. She has trained in the Carnatic style from illustrious artists like her own mother Smt Ananthlakhsmi Sadagopan, Sri Sunderrajan, Sri C.Sankarasivam,Trivandrum, Sri R.S. Mani and Semmangudi Sri R. Srinivasa Iyer. An All India Radio Artiste, she also has a music album of compositions of Ambujam Krishna :Gitamala, Vol 1 and is an active public speaker in English and Tamil. She is also an active member of the EXNORA movement dealing with environmental issues and civic cleanliness. A prolific writer, she has written features and articles on Music and Dance and also published a novel Arangam in Tamil on Carnatic music.

With so many accomplishments to her credit, one thing that stood out when we met her is her humility, her eagerness and her cheerful disposition. Qualities we all agree of a true artist !

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Sujata with daughter Sunanda

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