Her resume reads like the idyllic dream. Dancer, respected art critic, winner of Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar, writer, publisher, columnist, TV anchor, producer, actor, former secretary of the Madras Music Academy and currently on the panel of Indian Council For Cultural Relations! The list just seems endless.
Nandini Ramani — a strong, self-contained but humble artiste who has excelled in all her chosen fields — ensures that her innumerable laurels rest lightly on her able shoulders.
To be a proud custodian of two illustrious legacies is no mean feat. Nandini is the daughter of Dr V Raghavan, an eminent Sanskrit scholar and prolific writer on Indian culture, and is an early disciple of legendary bharatanatyam artiste, T Balasaraswati (Balamma).
The unshaken faith her father had in Balamma’s talent and the unique compactness of her dance style led him to nurture her and actively promote her. Nandini feels her father’s trust in the versatile artiste made him enrol both his daughters Priyamvada and Nandini to train under Balamma and her sister.
Nandini reminisces on her early training with Balamma and her close associate Nattuvanar K Ganesan. “As students, we would uncomplainingly continue with our practice, and would wait patiently till Balamma deemed it fit to progress to the next level. Unlike the modern guru-sishya relationship, we could not dare talk to her or ask her to teach us any item other than what she had in mind,” she recalls. With a dreamy look in her eyes, filled with utmost love and reverence, Nandini acknowledges that Balamma was not the easiest of people to interact with, which was probably the reason for her unpopularity in the art world.
Nandini attributes her generosity of spirit, innate cultural disposition and humility to her father, who always saw the bright and positive side of life, while she lays her professional identity at the feet of her revered guru.
As a teacher herself, Nandini believes in “quality” rather than in “quantity” when it comes to students and in upholding high standards, all the while adhering to Balamma’s style, without deviating from tradition or her margam. “My greatest accomplishment, I feel, has been my ability to evolve as an artiste, to internalise dance and communicate with the audience, without the help of gimmicks,” she explains.
Another feather in her cap is Samskrita Ranga — the Sanskrit theatre group she runs, founded by her father, to promote Sanskrit language and drama on stage. Nandini also actively promotes artistes from the South, and strives to give them appropriate platforms to showcase their talent.
Nandini’s work has garnered several awards over the years. Noteworthy amongst them are the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar, Natyakala Sikhamani, Natyakala Visharada, Natyakala Tapasvi Award from bharatanatyam exponent Jayalakshmi Alva, Kala Seva Bharathi, all for her contribution to the field of bharatanatyam.
Humane, dignified and a complete artiste, to Nandini, dance is her very breath. In fact, jatis, songs and dance movements keep swirling in her head at any given moment, which makes the dullest of her chores enjoyable.
As an artiste, Nandini has found a space, a sense of inward peace, which she likens to the tender, natural ripening of a fruit. She feels her understanding of even the smallest movement has provided her with moments of eternal bliss.
Meeting such a celebrated artiste was a daunting thought. A glimpse into the myriad phases of her culturally-rich heritage and the harmonious blending of art and life, leaves you feeling overwhelmed and inspired!