It was the rhythmic chimes of chilanka that played lullabies for Malu since the age of four. Thence forth, she moved her little feet to the tunes of ‘tha tha thais’ emitting from her teacher’s wooden sticks. In a matter of few years Malu has come out of her chrysalis and became Kalakshetra Malavika, who single-handedly trains around 85 disciples in her dance school SivaParvathy School of Performing Arts at Venjaramoodu. Today, this danseuse aims to teach a few handpicked students from economically backward families for free and sponsor their small strides towards the formidable world of art.
“As Venjaramoodu is my native place, I started my dance school there in 2004. The place also has a dearth of good dance institutes for those who are inclined towards arts. There are many children who are quite talented but cannot afford the fees the institutes charge them. So by January 2015, I will kick-start the selection processes in the government schools in and around Venjaramoodu, Attingal and Nedumangadu area,” says Malavika. Malavika, who already have a few students studying Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam under her free of cost says the next initiative will be even better than that.
She would be watching over them like a protective hen and would be meeting all their needs including ‘arangettam’ and further education in the field.“I cannot foresee whether these children who are learning under me free of fees would be pursuing dance. But in the case of students whom I would be sponsoring, I will make sure that they continue dancing,” she insists. Malavika has recently built a dance school in Jawahar Nagar near to where she stays in the city.
It was Chandralekha Jose, a noted dancer from the capital city, who imparted the first lessons of Bharata Natyam and Mohiniyattam to young Malavika. She won the coveted District Kalathilakam trophy for her performances in Mohiniyattom, Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Ottan Thullal in three consecutive years.
Nelliyode Vasudevan Nampoothiri, who is known for his villainous roles in Kathakali, taught her the first lessons of Kathakali. Malavika’s tryst with art extends to music and numerous instruments such as Mridangam.
“When I won the scholarship for Mohiniyattom, I was advised to go to Kalamandalam for further studies, but after studying Mohiniyattam for six-years, I wanted to learn Bharatanatyam in its authentic form and thus went to Chennai,” she quips.
In 1999, Malavika shifted her gears to Chennai and applied for the Bharatanatyam degree course in the prestigious Kalakshetra Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts. While learning the intricate nuances of the dance form under the tutelage of maestros Janardhanan, Thomas and Jyotsna, Malavika realised whatever Bharatanatyam techniques she had learned from Kerala had to be forgotten.
The authentic Bharatanatyam is a far cry from what is being taught in Kerala shores.“That is one of the reasons why I don’t encourage others to teach Bharatanatyam at my school. All the teaching is being done by me. Sometimes when I have programmes I let my senior students take over,” she says. Until a few years back, till Rigved her only son was born, Malavika was a regular perfomer at myriad Dance and music fests such as Surya Festival, ITB Berlin and many more. She is also an accredited performing artist of South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur.
“I had to take a short hiatus from the dance programmes after I had my son. Now its only been 6 or 7 months since I regained my pace and form. As I kept on teaching at the institute I have not lost my touch,” Malavika says.
She is choreographing ‘Krishnaleela’ - Krishna’s story depicted in three stages (from childhood to youth he spent in Vrindavan) - with her students and her son Rigved for a performance to be held at the famous Manikkodu Mahadeva Temple.
“I have recently performed a 20 minute sequence of Krishnaleela at the temple. Soon, they will get to experience the hour-long choreography at the same venue,” she says.
She also plans to conduct a dance fest at Venjaramoodu as part of her institute. “Venjaramoodu is still untouched by the urban culture, hence, a dance fest would be a novel experience for the natives. But I don’t know whether it will be possible soon but it is there in the back of my mind,” Malavika winds up.