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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Republic Of India: A Danse Penumbral

Leave aside the Constitution, the hardware of the State. The Republic was in reality brought into being by an elite consensus around a ‘pure’ culture, what it should have and what must be left out. And Exhibit-A is dance.

Republic Of India: A Danse Penumbral
Still Around |
Republic Of India: A Danse Penumbral
outlookindia.com
2019-01-26T14:19:34+05:30

It’s an inconspicuous little one-storey dot in a largely peaceful, middle-class neighbourhood in Tamil Nadu’s Viralimalai, a stone’s throw away from the glitzier airport city of Trichy. The walls are cement-washed—sturdy, yet reeking of an antiquity buried under layers of consolidating, mundane grey. The unceremonious clamour of utensils echoes through the backyard (that doubles up as a bath) and right into the humble home of a past that remains mostly forgotten. An old woman in a plain cotton sari trundles back in after spitting out a mouthful of paan outside her door. “My leg has been hurting for a while,” her eyes flinch a little in pain, adding a few lines to the ripples on her skin left by time—80 years to be precise, all spent trying to salvage an art that defines her legacy, and India’s too. Even if India doesn’t know it.

Just last year, R. Muthukkannammal was invi­ted to conduct a workshop on Sadir near Chennai. Sadir...what?...do I hear you ask? The word sounds almost alien to a nation propped up on feet relentlessly practising Bharatanatyam, or the “Dance of India”, for decades, among other classical forms—none sounding remotely like Sadir. But rummage through pre-Independent India’s yellowing archives, and one might stumble upon this word. It belonged to a land quite different from what the British left behind, and a time whose rhythm was set by feet dancing on temple stone—the feet and bodies and minds of Devadasis, the custodians of Chinnamelam, alternately known as Dasi attam or Sadir, whose ghost now lives in its distilled and ‘purified’ incarnation as Bharatanatyam.

Muthukkannammal is the last fruit of that original...

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