It was in December 1957 that I met acclaimed Kathak ballerina and choreographer Kumudini Lakhia in Mumbai. She had alternate from London afterwards partnering Ram Gopal in his choreographic assignment The Legend of Taj Mahal which was premiered at Edinburgh Festival in 1956. I had of advance heard of Ram Gopal as I did of addition chief avant-garde ballerina Uday Shankar. Kumudini gave me Ram Gopal’s autobiography, Rhythm in the Heavens, which was appear a few months ago.
It was absolutely an unputdownable autobiography. Absolutely alluring and about looked like a bogie tale. That anytime I would accommodated such a absorbing ballerina I had not alike imagined. However, it was in April 1968 that I met him in Mumbai. His above accomplice Satyavati Gopalan, a Kathakali dancer, abreast me about Ram’s visiting Mumbai. I was absolutely aflame to apprentice about his appointment and requested her to booty me forth with her to accommodated him.
I was autograph for an English circadian as their ball critic. I had interviewed Uday Shankar during that aeon and my adventure was appear in Sunday copy with Uday Shankar’s photographs. Satyavati showed it to Ram and he seemed to be afflicted account my interview. Not alone that but additionally Satyavati brought him to my abode at Ivroine area I was blockage adverse Oval and Rajabai Tower.
What a handsome man he was! And batten in austere British accent. Over a cup of tea, he asked me about the dance-drama traditions of Bhagavata Mela which was animate in few villages in Tanjore district. I had apprehend about those dance-dramas by Mohan Khokar in an commodity in a appropriate affair of Marg annual edited by Mulk Raj Anand. We talked about abounding dancers and the ball arena as it was again all afraid with awakening of classical ball forms. I requested him to accord me an account for the English circadian I was alive for. He readily agreed. I anticipate back he had apprehend my account with Uday Shankar, and admired it, he anticipation it would be nice to accord an account to me as a ball critic.
That was the alpha of our friendship. He had accustomed me his accomplished programme book with admirable photographs of his with Kumudini Lakhia in a Bharatanatyam duet. It agitated photos of his agreement flowers on the grave of Russian administrator Diaghilev on an island abreast Venice. And additionally his colourful account and admirable assets by eminent painter Feliks Topolski.
Since I had apprehend his adventures I capital to apperceive added about his present projects. He told me about a blur that Hollywood blur administrator David Lean was planning to accomplish on him. Ram Gopal had met Hollywood administrator Cecil B. DeMille, who had alien Ram to abundant administrator Sol Hurok. It was Sol Hurok who had spotted Uday Shankar back he performed in Paris and took his affiliation to America abounding times. He had additionally presented Ram Gopal for the aboriginal time in New York in a abandoned in 1938. From there Ram went to Paris in 1939, area he had performed with Sohanlal, addition acceptable Kathak dancer. From there Ram Gopal appeared in London at the Aldwych theatre, which was a axis point in his activity as he won the London admirers brief by his date presentation, arresting headgears, costumes, ablaze architecture and showmanship. He additionally met Queen Elizabeth.
Ram Goapl told me that during his Aldwych season, the acclaimed Russian ballet ballerina Nijinsky had appear to see him and he was afflicted by that apple acclaimed dancer’s admiration to see the Indian God dancing. Their affair was memorable. Not alone that but additionally afterwards one of the Polish analyzer declared Ram Gopal as Indian Nijinsky. That was the accomplished acclaim Ram Gopal anytime accustomed in his activity and admired it.
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But afore acceptable a best accepted Indian ballerina of London audiences, Ram’s activity was not an accessible one.
Born of a Rajput father, a acknowledged advocate and a Burmese mother, Ram was from his adolescence fatigued to ball inexplicably. He was built-in on November 20, 1912 and was affectionately called Bissanobar, afterwards his date of birth. He would antic and say Bissano was the Burmese name of Lord Vishnu! His ancestor capital him to chase his footsteps and become a barrister. Ram had no admiration to be one. He capital to be a dancer. He would ball abreast to recorded music forth with his acquaintance U.S. Krishna Rao. Ram came to apperceive of Kathakali from a academic and ran abroad to Kerala Kala Mandalam to abstraction beneath Kunchu Kurup and Chandu Panicker.
He performed afore the Yuvraj of Mysore who encouraged him and abiding Ram’s ancestor to let him abstraction dance. Ram additionally advised Bharatanatyam beneath Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai of Pandanallur and excelled in it. It so happened that in 1936 or there about from America an indigenous ballerina La Meri came to Bangalore to abstraction Bharatanatyam, with her affiliation on a ball bout of Far East countries. She enquired a Parsi administrator of Empire theatre if there was a adolescent ballerina whom she can booty forth for the bout of Far East. He recommended Ram Gopal, whom La Meri asked to accompany her affiliation and accomplice her. Ram took a quick accommodation and said he would. Ram’s ancestor was not admiring with his accommodation and warned him that he ability acknowledgment disappointed. But the die was casting and Ram went off with La Meri to Java, Bali, Indonesia and Burma and from there to Japan. La Meri had advised few items of Bharatanatyam like Alarippu, Sabdam and Tillana. Ram and her dancing an Indian ball accustomed acceptable appreciation, but in Tokyo back the columnist alone accepted the Indian God, La Meri was bent and alone him from her aggregation and larboard him abaft and went off to added cities.
Ram was devastated. But as luck would accept it, a Polish announcer and administrator by name Janta took him beneath his wings. Ram went with him to San Francisco and toured with him in America afore abiding to India. His parents were admiring that he had alternate and accommodated to let him carve a career of a dancer. Their deluxe abode Torquay Castle anon angry into a ball academy area abundant masters came to advise dance. Dancers like Mrinalini Sarabhai, Tara Chaudhary, Shevanti, adolescent M.K. Saroja, added bounded dancers and others from altered states were a allotment of Ram’s company. He and Tara Chaudhary performed as Lord Shiva and Parvati.
Mrinalini Sarabhai larboard Ram’s aggregation to alpha her own career as a dancer, met amplitude scientist Dr Vikram Sarabhai, affiliated him and acclimatized in Gujarat establishing her Darpana Academy. Ram afterwards the Apple War alternate to London and had best acknowledged bout of Europe. In 1948 he arrive Kumudini Lakhia to accompany his aggregation in London and forth with Shevanti, Satyavati and Kumudini he mesmerised Europe. His acclaim advance far and wide.
Very few would bethink that he acted in the British blur The Elephant Walk with addition acclaimed amateur Sabu and admirable adorableness Elizabeth Taylor. In addition British blur blue-blooded The Purple Plain he appeared as administrator Mr Phang, with Gregory Peck who played the role of an Air Force officer.
But it was ball that was best baby to his heart. The critics in London raved about his date presence, concrete beauty, apparel and way of presenting ball forms Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak and alike Manipuri in an adorable manner. He was able to abduction the adorned of admirers with his Indian abandoned ball performances forth with accumulation performances. He absitively to achieve bottomward in London and in 1962 accustomed Academy of Indian classical dances.
His choreographic works included Ball of Shiva, Ball of the Setting sun, the Legend of Taj Mahal, additionally a abandoned he choreographed based on the ball of a swan in Kathakali creating aureate wings hawkeye dance, and assuming with abundant flair.
French blur administrator Albert Lamorisse was absorbed in authoritative a blur on him. Unfortunately, he anesthetized abroad in a adverse accident. But his wife Claude Lamorisse undertook to accomplish a blur on Ram.
For that Ram Gopal came to India. He was addicted of Kerala and Kerala massage. During my appointment to London in 1969 I acclimated to accommodated Ram consistently and we would go and see at Covent Garden Bolshoi Ballets from Moscow. The abundant ballerina Galina Ulanova had distinctively appear to London for the division and was apprenticeship Maya Plisetskaya, addition acclaimed Russian ballerina. We acclimated to go and watch the rehearsals. Ram knew both the ballerinas who additionally admired Ram.
Ram arrive me to go with him to Kerala and abetment him for the blur for cutting at Kerala Kala Mandalam and acquaint Claude La Morrise to the abundant gurus. We went to Palghat and met his authority Kunchu Kurup who was actual old but recognised Ram, their affair was actual touching. Kunchu Kurup adored him and their affair has been filmed in the blur Aum Shiva fabricated in 1970. Claude additionally fabricated addition blur Nataraj: King of Ball and Apple of Ram Gopal in 1973.
I accept blessed memories of blockage with Ram in Kerala area we acclimated to accept acclaimed massage. There were restrictions apropos aliment during the aeon back we took massage. But Ram would not beam them. He would adjustment a auto and we would go off to a adjacent burghal area in a auberge Ram would adjustment food. Once the aliment took continued time to be served, Ram saw a adolescent Malayali brace with plates of aliment and actual affably went to their table, and demography a bowl took bisected of the aliment from their bowl animated and cogent the brace that he was too athirst and would they mined if he aggregate aliment with them? I was taken ashamed and absitively to adumbrate beneath the table. But Ram had charmed the brace and they acquiescently beggared with their ordered food.
Ram had asked me to address his biography. Afterwards my aboriginal appointment to London in 1969, he arrive me to break with him at his abode in Norbury. He showed me attenuate photographs and brochures, programme books, reviews, accumulating of books on dance, attenuate paintings and abundant actual to assignment upon. But he was not accessible about abounding things, in accurate his date of birth. He would not let me acknowledgment that. He would allege of his august past, abundant masters, dancers he admired like Balasaraswati, Bhanumati and Varalakshmi whose ball he adored. He batten acquiescently of Kalanidhi Narayanan, Satyavati, Shevanti, Shevanti’s bedmate Rajeswar who acclimated to accomplish with Ram and they looked like two brothers. I had apparent a blur on Ram Gopal in accumulating of Stanvac Petrol Company. And a attenuate glimpse in a blur fabricated by Pathe. He would adjustment sweets and apathetic about but our assignment on adventures would be stalled.
We were calm in Toronto in 1980 for a ball appointment area Kitappa, the abundant authority and brood of Tanjore quartette was additionally present. Their affair was abounding of homesickness and he would allege of attenuate items he had advised from Meenakshisunderam Pillai. In Toronto the organisers abiding a appointment to the ballet academy area Ram met acclaimed choreographer Erik Bruhn whom Rudolf Nureyev adored. He knew Ram. Back we all met our organiser acquaintance took photographs, which I treasure. From Toronto we came to New York and backward with our acquaintance Odissi ballerina Rajika Puri, area we met Indrani Rahman. Ram and Indrani were abundant friends. Ram took me to Ball Accumulating at Lincoln Centre area he showed me the blur taken of his tillana he had performed at Jacob’s Pillow Festival in 1954. That blur has captured his Bharatanatyam in ablaze manner.
Ram had additionally arrive me to break with him at Venice area he had confused for some time. But our activity of autograph adventures did not assignment out. I knew that I cannot address things which were not historically correct. It is a benevolence that so abundant actual is there which requires a cardinal of advisers to abstraction about an artisan who was a abnormality and like his abreast Uday Shankar had put Indian classical ball on the apple map.
Whenever I visited London I acclimated to accommodated him. His bloom was declining with advancing age. He was put in Norbury Old Age Home area he backward for three years. The aftermost time I visited him was in 2000. He was as accepted abounding of acclamation and jolly. My columnist acquaintance Vipul Sangoi took several photos of Ram. He acclimated to abrasion Mysore pugree and bright dress. He had bright taste.
Recognising his abundant addition Sangeet Natak awarded him Ratna Sadasya — the accomplished accolade in 1990. Queen Elizabeth awarded Adjustment of British Empire in 1999. He anesthetized abroad on October 12, 2003. His acreage is actuality looked afterwards by Pam Cullen, his acquaintance and a above ability adviser in Indian aerial commission. She too is actual old. Ann David, a assistant of ball at Roehampton University is administering analysis on Ram Gopal and one hopes her assignment would be of abundant value.
Fortunately, Ayisha Abraham, babe of acclaimed artisan Abu Abraham and an artist, painter, based in Bengaluru, has fabricated a blur I Saw God Dance, which captures Ram Gopal’s amazing career as a ballerina with interviews by me and Kumudini Lakhia. The blur has additionally attenuate footage of 8 mm colour blur taken in 1938 which is digitalised by Ayisha. I too accept interviewed him at breadth 34 years ago for annal of Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1984.
This blur would be a abundant antecedent of advice and afflatus for the adolescent bearing of dancers. He shall be consistently remembered as a abundant ballerina who put Indian ball on the apple map.
The biographer is an eminent ball historian
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