Bottling her spirit

You could like her, dislike her or even feel how on earth is she where she is– but the fact of the matter is that in her own words, ‘’I receive Grace with Grace.’’  Focused, driven and an uncompromising desire to finish what she sets out to do, is what makes  Krithika Subramanian,  a symbol of success in the most accepted manner. Chithra Mahesh listens to her in an up close interview with the talented danseuse.


That, many successful people will tell you, is the baseline for what they achieve in life– money, adulation, attention and everything that goes with people sitting up and taking notice, has its foundation in the acceptance that there is the hand of the Divine in all that they do and that they are only following a given script laid out for them.  Of course, the hard work, commitment, an eye for the minutest details, a disciplined way of life and adherence to excellence, are factors that cannot be undermined. Yet the attitude of doing and then leaving the results to however they may shape up is the defining part of the persona seeking to fulfill the potential to the maximum.

Krithika Subramanian Photo credit M Gurunath Prabhu1And so it is with Krithika Subramanian who believes that everyone dreams but what they do with that, is what makes the person the way they are. A highly successful architect and designer (Shreshta, Sumanth and Co, Transform, Namaargam Dance Company) who have returned to dance like the prodigal daughter after a long hiatus, Krithika is making news now with her reentry into the dance world. She has turned choreographer, producer, facilitator, and collaborator and has roped in no less a person than Illayaraja to score the music orchestration for a script written by her–Swappanam is the dream and this dream fructified recently with a lot of glitz and glamor.

‘’The script is actually about disjointed dreams,’’ says Krithika post the performance. She is unfazed by criticism or praise and is only looking ahead on what is next. ‘’Dreams need not be logical,’’ she adds,’’ because this production is all about dreams of different people at different points in time. The way I see it is that at the core of all dreams is the self, the inner part which according to me is linked to Shiva.’’

Which sets the base for the person that she is– spiritual and accepting of what life has to offer. And life has been a mixed mag for her with several road blocks, but none of which has stopped her from doing what she wants. A demanding career that involves crazy working hours, a two hour dancing practice schedule every morning , chanting and reading spiritual books every single day, writing ( because it is cathartic), planning and coordinating dance productions( Namargam, Antaram( with Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Gopika Varma and Yamini Reddy) and now Swappnam) , rehearsing for solo performances ,looking after a spectacularly beautiful home, a son who is now 15 and a husband who is into real estate and contruction,an  extended family of parents sister, in laws, large circle of friends … the list seems endless. Yet she manages it all and I ask how?

‘’I have learnt to compartmentalize. When I am here, I am fully here. I am focused on the task on hand. When I am at home I am 100 percent attentive to how it is run, how things are placed and how the food is being done and what kind of attention my husband and son need. I don’t ever give up on any activity; I just reschedule. I don’t sleep much so that gives me time to do everything I want to do.’’

‘’I am very spiritual–I chant, I do a lot of research and I read a lot about my work and about philosophy. And in that process of educating myself I wrote my script on Shiva and on Shaivasim.’’And this line of spiritualism has been with her since she was very young- ‘’11 maybe 12,’’ she says. ‘’I used to chant since then and people have found it strange. ‘’ Krithika comes from a family of Theosophists. ’My grandfather was one and so is my father, who is also a poet. Those days– though they were those traditional families, they used to have teas with sandwiches and stuff and they came from Burma. I grew up like that and while my mother was from Bangalore she was utterly devoted to Raghavendra Swamy.’’

Krithika started learning dance from Dr Prof Sudharani Raghupathy and spent her early years in the dance school, Shree Bharatalaya. ‘My mother and Sudha Aunty used to be neighbors in Bangalore and when I was born she was determined that I should learn from her, ’says Krithika. That laid the foundation to all that she is doing today, because her first spiritual Guru is Shri Madurai Krishna Iyengar who used to teach her mother music and became her guiding light in all these years. ‘’ Vadyar and Sudha Aunty are my gurus and there is a connection I cannot explain. I do what my gurus tell me and while Vadhyar is no more physically I communicate with him and find ways of fulfilling what I need to. All the chanting has helped me to shape my life too and I have and am always coming in contact with people who are deeply spiritual.’’

She narrates an interesting story of how her father once took her to see one such person before her arangetram. He materialized an apple out of his navel and gave it to her to eat. ‘’ I am very OCD kind of a person,’’ she says with a laugh-‘’ obsessing about cleanliness and being particular about everything and I remember wondering how I was going to eat that fruit. The holy person read my mind and said,’’I know what you are thinking- but you cannot wash the fruit. You have to eat it the way it is. I also remember taking it home and looking at it for a long time. But ate I did and from then I changed the way I thought. I had to conquer my OCD and realized how crippling it is to be like that. After that my experiences at going to temples changed too, because earlier I couldn’t take the mud, the dust and other damp areas that could be there. A change in me opened up my very thinking.’’

However it was when she had a child that her life changed in an indescribable manner as she had a difficult pregnancy and almost died during childbirth. ‘’ I went out of my body and I saw everyone from above. The experience was very much like how it is described by many- the light, the tunnel and the lightness. But I also knew I that I wanted to come back. I felt I had many more things to complete and I wanted to be alive for my baby. I can say it was my Guru who brought me back.’’

With that experience, Krithika says,’’ I developed a completely different view of life. I stopped worrying so much. I don’t stress. If things don’t go my way, I don’t allow myself to get worked up. I plan and if they don’t turn out well I look at solutions and alternatives instead of worrying why they didn’t work. I just move on –just as I don’t think of the negatives in my life. And there are many.’’

‘’I was on the ventilator and in the ICU –but in my mind, I was chanting all the time. That’s why I named my son Shriman. I accept everything as an act of God’’

Krithika came back to dance after a hiatus of close to 15 years. ‘’And it does not feel that I ever left,’’ she says. ‘’I don’t waste time on frivolity and give attention to whatever I am doing. Whether it is a party or designing a building, there are no half measures. I think it helped my marriage to stop dancing, which is probably why I gave it up then. Now my son is old enough and the family is also supportive in what I want to do with dance now’’

It started with master classes with her Guru Sudharani Raghupathi,’’ and she was so good with me. I would go every afternoon for close to 5 months and have a one on one with her. She brought me back. And even though I went away from it I remembered – I have a photographic memory which helps in my work as well as n dance. This quality of instant recall just kicked in. Plus I do power yoga, have a personal trainer and I dance every day—all this helps.’’

‘’The biggest challenge while getting back to dance is in the area of abhinaya,’’ she says. ‘’Because being in the corporate world for so long ,one learns to have an impassive face and not let the other person know what you are thinking. This is a handicap when it comes to dance. Without expression your dance is only half of it.’’

Krithika believes that sometimes dance can become like a phobia for those who think they cannot understand it. And this happens only with the classical dance or music. ‘’In the west a rock artist is most likely to catch an opera or an architect will probably play the cello. They tend to be pluralistic with themselves and therefore have a pluralistic view of others too. But I feel here we tend to compartmentalize ourselves so much that our identity seems almost cast in iron.  People are scared to be something else. Explore other sides to themselves. Also people probably do not internalize sufficiently what they do’’

‘’People especially women,’’ she sums up,’’ should not put limitations on themselves. I believe everyone should dream and be what they want to be- there should be no stopping themselves. No dream is too big or too impossible. Isn’t that what life coaches say? Plus, do receive Grace with Grace, whether good or bad. That’s all.’’