Nirmala Ramachandran, Bharatanayam dancer and guru passéd away in Chennai on February 23 at the age of 75.
Nirmala’s ancestors on her paternal side belonged to Needamangalam in Thanjavur district. Her father was a businessman and her mother Sivakamu had strong, artistic, particurlaly with music leanings.
Nirmala’s mother was the force behind Nirmala’s initiation into music and dance. Sivakamu’s association with the legendary Gowriamma who was a regular visitor to their Mylapore home and later at Egmore.
Gowri Amma was Nirmala’ first dance teacher even before Chokkalaingm Pillai who put her through her first margam. Her formal training in dance began when the family moved to Egmore and she was enrolled at the Indian Institute of Fine Arts to train under guru Chokkalingam Pillai.
The guru was a tough taskmaster and training was rigorous every day, twice a day.
Three years after this training Chokkalingam Pillai conducted Nirmala’s arangetram in 1947. For successfully completing a ‘margam’ the institute awarded the diploma of Natya Kala Bhushanan, a title that she always cherished.
Nirmala had an opportunity to take part in a dance drama production by the legendary Balasaraswati. This was not looked upon with favour by Sarangapani Iyengar and also by her guru, Chokkalingam Pillai.
This later led to a break with Chokkalingam Pillai and the Pandanallur style of dance. It was E Krishna Iyer who facilitated her return to the Pandanallur style by arranging for Tiruvalaputtur Swaminatha Pillai to teach her.
Nirmala records her gratitude to two people in her life – E Krishna Iyer who helped her to get the right teacher and Dr. V. Raghavan who offered her a chance to act in his Sanskrit plays and also to step into research.
Soon Nirmala was performing at various venues in Madras and in Mumbai. Her performance at the Music Academy was in 1954. Nirmala graduated in 1956 with a degree in Carnatic music from the Queen Mary’s College in Chennai.
In 1958 she married S. Ramachandran whose work as an executive of Air India resulted in constant travel. She accompanied her husband to countries in Europe where she gave performances. She went on tours to the East European countries, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Her trip to the Soviet Union when it was opening up to the rest of the world was very fulfilling.
Nirmala is survived by her husband, Ramachandran and two sons, Dr. Ram Gopalakrishnan and Siddhartha Ramachandran.
The family lives at 2A, “Glenmoor”, 3 Sriramnagar North, Alwarpet. Ph: 2435 8953.