CHENNAI: Squatting on the floor, Parvathy Menon gracefully removes her salangai as she says, “I never in my wildest dream imagined that I would marry a dancer,” and smiles at Shijith Nambiar. The dancer duo who met while studying at Kalakshetra, are the recipients of The Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, the award given by the Sangeet Natak Akademy and have been choreographing and performing dance recitals and shows both in India and abroad. The duo will be doing a Bharatanatyam recital today, and they were gracious enough to talk to us amid their practice session about their journey, Kalakshetra days and their love story.
Parvathy met Shijith, her ‘super-senior’ then at Kalakshetra. When they began ‘dating’, they would hardly get any time to meet or talk. “There was no WhatsApp or Facebook back then; we used to write letters sometimes. I was staying in the hostel and Shijith was staying outside in a PG. There was no time to sit and talk; we were always busy with our classes and focused only on dance,” she recalls.
She would notice Shijith walk in during early morning prayers and only then realise that he has come to class. “Once in a while, our friends used to help us meet, but then it would be all of us together, never just the two of us,” she adds.
Coming from families that have an inclination for arts, it was an easy choice for both Shijith and Parvathy to take up dance as a career. While the former was born and raised in Kerala, the latter grew up in Kuwait. “My father was into a lot of drama and art, and he wanted one of us four brothers to take it up. I am the last boy and I guess it had to be me,” says Shiith.
Adding that dance was really not his choice in the beginning he says, “I was more of a football kind of a guy at first, but my father sent the application to Kalakshetra and I joined in 1996.”
Both have danced on several stages and have given solo, duet and even group performances. Shijith, who has mostly done a lot of solos in the past, says that it was difficult for him in the beginning to handle the sudden shift from solo to duet. “It was really challenging. A lot of compromises have to be made. When it’s a solo, there is a lot of freedom, even if I do one hand the other way, it doesn’t matter. Whereas, in the case of duet, I don’t have that liberty,” he points out.
When Parvathy’s strength is grace and expressions, and Shijith’s knowledge of music and rhythm. Recalling one of their performances in Bengaluru, Shijith says, “We were doing a Radha-Krishna piece and during the bhajan, her bindi fell off. I took the bindi and put it on her forehead and suddenly the rasikas burst into applause. These little impromptu actions make our chemistry work, as it is not rehearsed or pre-planned,” he adds.
Shijith has learnt the nuances of Kathakali, Ottamthullal, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam, music and even mrudangam. Has learning music and mrudangam given him an upper hand in understating movements? “Music and dance are part of each other. My mrudangam background helps a lot in the calculations and the mathematics of the jatis. It is true when they say that music is the life for dance,” he explains.
Ask them about their first Marghazhi performance and Parvathy says, “It was in 2006 for Bharat
Kalachar.” The duo says that they don’t do too many kutcheris through the season because they want to concentrate on one or two rather than doing so many. “Things were so different back then; social media wasn’t a big thing then. Today, as soon as a performance is over, the photos are on Facebook. We have come a long way,” she adds.
For their upcoming recital, Shijith and Parvathy will be performing a traditional ‘margam’, with five items – Paramanandanadanam — invocation to Lord Nataraja, varnam — the centre piece, a solo each and then one thillana.
Shijith and Parvathy will be performing today at Madras Music Academy from 6 pm onwards. For details, call: 28112231