There aren’t many artistes who have succeeded as both a performer and teacher. The feat assumes more significance if it is a male performer. On both counts, Adyar K Lakshman, is a living legend. “All my life I have learned and enjoyed being a learner,” he says.
Receiving training from Rukmini Devi Arundale at Kalakshetra, he began learning dance (bharatnatyam and nattuvangam), vocal music and mridangam at the age of 11. Hailing from Kuppam in Chittoor, the artiste and his brother Rama Rao trained under the auspices of Kalakshetra. “It was a rich experience for me. I had never imagined I would be teaching dance, till I met my guru Rukmini Devi Arundale. She was my biggest inspiration and I learned a lot from her,” he adds.
Some of his performances include Kumara Sambhavam, Kutrala Kuravanji, Sita Swayamvaram and Usha Parinayam, based on the Melattur Bhagavata Mela tradition.
Today at 79, Adyar Lakshman’s memory may fail him a little, but when he talks about his learning days, he is vivid and descriptive. Talking about the dance institution, he also adds that he is fortunate to have had the best guides and mentors as he trained in all aspects of the arts.
Full of anecdotes and humourous observations, the artiste exhibits a child-like excitement, when you ask him how his name acquired the prefix ‘Adyar’. He recollects, “Wherever I went, be it for tours or for performances across the country, I returned to my home here in Adyar. I did not want to live anywhere else. The place has so many landmarks...the banyan tree, the Theosophical Society to name a few. This is my karmabhoomi,” he adds with a laugh.
His dance school Bharatha Choodmani, was established in the year 1959 and served as a centre for training for several eminent dancers who have made a mark in the field like Jayanthi Subramaniam and Roja Kannan.
In the last 70 years, the artiste has achieved several milestones in his career and with his humility, and his repertoire is awe-inspiring.
As he observes, today dance and teaching is different, but he insists he has stuck to his foundation and imbibed dance, following his gurus’ footsteps. “I have only believed that you should dance with dedication, sing and play the instrument with the same commitment,” he says.
Inspired by the same dedication to the world of dance and music, today the artiste’s sons, daughter and daughter-in-law are involved in performing arts.
He says wistfully, “My achievement is the gratitude I have for my institute. It has made me and guided me throughout and it will continue to.”