Differently-abled Kerala girl dancing to a unique rhythm

Nazreen C J, who is hearing impaired, marvels art connoisseurs by transforming unheard tunes into elegant moves, reports Anuja Susan Varghese
Nazreen is also interested in painting and photography | A Sanesh
Nazreen is also interested in painting and photography | A Sanesh

ERNAKULAM: The differently-abled are often blessed with myriad capabilities. Heightened sensory powers and special skills, developed by some individuals over several years overcoming challenges, at times leave audiences spellbound. Such is the tale of Nazreen CJ, hearing impaired from birth. The limitations, however, did not stop the Kochi resident — called Kukku fondly — from exploring art and travel, and from honing her many talents. An expert bharatanatyam dancer, her performance, syncing steps by sensing vibrations of the beat on the floor, is an amazing sight.

From Class V, Nazreen has practised dance to the rhythm of classical music, mastering not just bharatanatyam, but kathak and mohiniyattom as well. “She was a bright child from the very beginning,” says Nazreen’s mother, Noorjahan Jani.

“We realised she could not hear or speak only after she was two, and by then it was too late.” One huge positive for Nazreen, now 22, was that she studied in a regular school, enabling her to understand conversations by lip-reading.

“She learned to accept she was different from other children. Being part of the Kochi Kalabhavan, she received opportunities to perform in cultural events on various stages and also in television programmes,” Noorjahan points out. Family support is a pillar of strength for Nazreen, with her mother accompanying her to cultural events and competitions.

“During her schooldays, we travelled to Mumbai, Chennai and Ranchi. Though she is very confident now about managing on her own, we are still reluctant to let her travel alone,” says Noorjahan.Realising her mother was talking about her adventurous dreams, Nazreen gestures to say that they worry needlessly.

Her sister, Jasmine Anseer, says Nazreen did not have any special training method or additional assistance while learning classical dance. “She would pick up the steps and the rhythm as shown by her dance teacher. She continues with the steps till the dance sequence ends.” Her mother also recalls bitter experiences, when Nazreen was denied opportunities due to her condition. “Some organisers fear she would make mistakes on stage. Such experiences hurt her the most, yet she didn’t back down. Whenever she received opportunities, she has made sure that she puts up excellent performances,” Noorjahan says.

The walls of their home are stacked with prizes, with Nazreen having excelled in other fields too, like drawing, painting and photography. She used to play badminton as well. Recently, she modelled for Seematti, one of Kerala’s leading textile brands.

“She is a very different person when on stage. It won’t be apparent to anyone she can’t hear the music. Be it ramp walk or western dance, she nails them with elan. During solo performances, we just have to ensure one of us is there off-stage to alert her when the song starts and is about to end,” says Jasmine.

When asked about her ambition, Nazreen joyously nods and gestures she wants to become a wildlife photographer. Nazreen did her BSc in maths at the St Teresa’s College, and is now busy with programmes and photography sessions.“Due to Covid, things were dull for a while. But life is now back on track,” says Jani C S, Nazreen’s father, beaming with pride. And Nazreen gestures, looking forward to the shows lined up.

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