TRIBUTE: Natyaacharya and Guru Narasimhachari
Guru Shri Narasimhachari was a Sangeet Natak academy winner, Kalaimamani and Nritya Choodamani and I had heard a lot about him even before I met him.
I knew people admired and appreciated him. He was a revered and respected dancer and my own dance master had been his disciple.
As a 10 year schoolboy,I was very apprehensive and nervous about meeting him, hoping I would remember whatever I learnt about Bharatanatyam when he asked me to dance. My hands were shaking and my legs trembling when I first saw him. I looked up at him in amazement and I even had difficulty introducing myself.
He welcomed me with such a wonderful warm cheerful smile, hugged me and made me feel proud of the fact that I was a Bharatanatyam dancer. He made me wonder how a teacher could be so soft and always smiling. He would always look directly at me when he was talking. His twinkling eyes, his mischievous looks and his never-vanishing smile touched me.
Does he ever scold his students? How can his face be so calm? I always wondered and pondered.
And then, I was absolutely lucky to become his student for 10 days.
Thanks to ABHAI – Association of BHaratanatyam Artistes of India and their summer workshop, I got to learn with Sri Narasimhachari sir and Guru Shrimathi Vasantalakshmi.
As a group of around 15 students we learnt to dance to the song “ Sri Chakra raja” with them, and very soon ( in a couple of days) they knew us by our names. But not once did he ever correct our mistakes by raising his voice or sternly addressing us, instead he would reason out why we made the mistake and where we should remember to correct it.
It was an amazing learning experience where we not only learnt the adavus and the technicality to dance for the song, but how to be a part of a team and the meaning of passion for dance.
The 2 hours spent with him every day were to learn lessons that would last for a lifetime. Soft, gentle, firm, empathetic, warmly stern, fun-loving, always humorous, no compromise – so much to associate with Guru Shri Narasimachariji as a teacher.
And when we were preparing for the stage performance, he monitored and guided every single movement of ours, correcting and guiding us with infinite patience until we were perfect. And after the ABHAI performance, he came to us and with his divine sweet smile appreciated us, patted us and told us how well we performed.
During the practice, there was a particular series of steps where I would make mistakes. And I would try to correct them. But then I would somehow repeat the mistake in the next series of steps somewhere and my eyes would immediately first look out to see if he saw my mistake – hoping that he had not seen it. He would catch my eyes, give me a gentle acknowledgement that he did observe it. And would give me that look of confidence to tell me he knows that I would correct myself.
It’s been over a month since his demise. Unlike all of us , he was a man who was never ever morbid. He always quoted “Jathasya Maranam Druvam”. He was a teacher to me for 10 days but, he will be a mentor for a lifetime.
He taught everything right from discipline to how to dress formally for any occasion and how to present oneself, He taught me to put my adavus correctly. He repeatedly requested me to maintain posture, to do jathis perfectly and how to show emotions for a particular scene in detail. And he painstakingly explained the relevance of each when we grow up.
He was the chief guest for my Arangetram. When I went to give him the invitation, he made me sit in the dance hall, recap and reason out the songs I am performing to and told me of all the usual mistakes made and how I should avoid them. He particularly and insistently told me to take care of myself well physically and mentally.
He guided the way for me to look at classical dance from a very different perspective and gave so many other tips which is the reason why my arangetram took place so well.
Encouraging me all the time he would always say “always keep dancing come what may in life …you will always be pleasant” and told me to start practicing yoga. It was with his instructions that I started Yoga and the difficult breathing issues I had, could overcome. Just before the arangetram he came to my green room along with Shrimathi Vasanthalakshmi told me to think of only God and dance. He is the prime cause for making a lot of kids like me interested in dance and pursue it.
I am indebted to him forever. His serene sweet smile will inspire me all the time to dance my way in the journey of life.
Narasimhachari was a reputed music composer, choreographer, singer, nattuvanar, mridangam player, concert musician, performing artiste of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi and a guru of an outstanding capacity. He was the president of ABHAI (Association of Bharatnatyam Artistes of India) which has more than 1000 members for nine years. He is the director of Kalasamarpana Foundation established in 1969 (merged as the classical wing of Rasoham since 2007).