Admirable couple

VP Dhananjayan and his wife Shanta, are well-known names in dance circles. But after the Vodafone advertisement, the Dhananjayans have become more popular, especially among kids, writes Uma Kannan

Her wish is to open a restaurant and with the support of husband Bala, Asha gives wings to her dream. She names the new restaurant as Asha’s Kitchen. Bala happily supports Asha and even suggests few changes in the arrangement of dishes, and also helps customers taste their favourite onion sambhar (vengaya sambhar).
Yes, the much-talked about Vodafone couple —Asha and Bala are back in the new campaign of the mobile company. Two years ago, they were featured in the same company’s advertisement. Back then, Asha was seen enjoying paragliding and Bala was getting inked in Goa.

The energetic and uber-cool couple is now busy with many advertisements and film offers in their kitty. “This (Vodafone) offer came all of a sudden. The advertisement agency looked for some elderly couple and somebody suggested our name, and we, too, accepted the offer. Immediately in a couple of days, they called us for shooting in Goa,” says bharatanatyam exponent Vannadil Pudiyaveettil Dhananjayan.

Both VP Dhananjayan and his wife Shanta are well-known names in dance circles and their students are all over the world promoting bharatanatyam. But after the Vodafone advertisement, the Dhananjayans have become more popular, especially among kids. “When the ad was out, kids used to ask me ‘Aunty, how was the experience of paragliding, how long did it take to learn,’” smiles Shanta.

After finalising costumes for the next dance performance, sitting at her residence in Adyar, Chennai, Shanta says, “As dancers, we have travelled across the world and before this ad happened, we were thinking about visiting Goa. We both were discussing how we had missed visiting Goa and it so happened that the next week we got a call for this commercial, and the shoot happened in Goa. Everything was real — be it the railway station scene in Goa, paragliding or tattoo place, and director Prakash Varma gave us
the freedom to do it in our own fashion.”

Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films, Bengaluru, was the director and the couple is all praise for the director. “We thoroughly enjoyed doing the ad. Before this ad, long ago, I have acted in a couple of commercials, including Nerolac Paints in Malayalam,” says Dhananjayan.

Together, the Dhananjayans have become the most-sought- after couple, as they get offers to act together in advertisements. Their recent ad as a couple, includes jewellery brand Tanishq. The Dhananjayans are also busy with films. “We have started understanding the advertisement world, and it takes a lot of dedication and hard
work to make an ad film, as one needs to convey things in a few seconds,” says the dancing duo.

Kalakshetra days

Talk about Kalakshetra, an arts and cultural academy in Chennai, and their alma mater, the couple has so much to share. Dhananjayan met Shanta at Kalakshetra. The former was one of the leading male dancers under the founder of Kalakshetra, Rukmini Devi.

“It was a different world. Kalakshetra was like gurukula ashrama for us and we had nothing else to think about except art and the subject of study. Nature gave us that kind of environment to nurture our innate talent. We had open classes and everything that happened there was very memorable and it contributed to the development of our character,” says 81-year-old Dhananjayan.

His 76-year-old wife adds, “We were able to interact with great stalwarts, scholars, politicians and statesmen at Kalakshetra and whatever we are today, it is because of the environment.”Winners of many prestigious awards, including the Padma Bhushan, they say art has contributed a lot to the nation building. For both Dhananjayan and Shanta, Bengaluru is their second home. “We have given many performances in Bengaluru, and we have contributed much to the development of bharatanatyam in the city,” smiles Shanta.

 

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