Malavika in motion

Intense, extraordinary and luminous are words that best describe danseuse Malavika Sarukkai who is back with her powerful performance titled Thari

By Namita Gupta

Her eyes shine bright as she welcomes us for a candid conversation about her long and artistic journey mastering the world of dance choreography at Taneira in Indiranagar, Bengaluru. Malavika Sarrukai’s dark, deep, black and expressive eyes reveal her passionate path-breaking journey of a dancer whose work is celebrated by critics, connoisseurs, and lovers of all art forms.


The Padmashree awardee from the President of India, SNA Award winner from the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi, Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu and more recently the Natya Kala Acharya award from the Music Academy, Chennai, Malavika doesn’t rest on her laurels and confesses that she finds dance and movement in everyday things in life. “When you see dance it’s just one layer, but there are many layers that work towards it. We do a lot of research and reading. Dance doesn’t happen in isolation. Dance enriches your mind and gives you dimensions that you never knew existed. Everything else for me is incidental, even travel. You cannot have dance in
isolation; seeing a sunset, a great film, reading a great article is also dance. The idea of Thari also came to me after reading a great article on the loom. Dance is about observation, philosophy, and rhythm. It is life,” shares the lady who has been performing solos and also runs an arts trust called Kala Vahini.


Revealing of her choreography of her dance production Thari, a design and play of thread, Malavika explains, “Thari – The Loom was my personal journey which then became collective when I shared it with my collaborators and dancers. I’ve called it Thari, which means the loom in Tamil. It starts with the thread, which is playful and colourful which is my first piece that is choreographed to the sound of the loom. I went to Kanchipuram many times and even recorded authentic sounds as I wanted organic and wanted to get into the fibre of the sound. My sound recorder Saisha has done a fabulous job. My light designer Gyandev Singh is also brilliant. We have tried to push boundaries the way people look at dance. The second choreography is called warp and weft that shows the movement of thread with pure dance. The third choreography is called saree and is inspired by the Kanjeevaram saree, Ganga Jamuna in particular, which have contrasting borders with traditional motifs like the parrot, associated with love, peacock with valour and the swan, associated with wisdom and of course the wonderful pallu. It is abstract yet exciting. I’ve collaborated Sumantra Ghosal, a filmmaker who has helped us chisel the whole performance. I wanted to present it with someone who is associated with handlooms and with Taneira it just seemed like a perfect collaboration. We will take it abroad next year.”


Recognised for her contribution as an artist with intellectual depth, Malavika Sarukkai was invited to deliver the prestigious Coomaraswamy Memorial Lecture in Mumbai. Celebrated for her ‘out of the box’ creative thinking she was invited by Kartik Fine Arts to conceptualise and curate the Natya Darshan Dance Symposium. A film entitled ‘The Unseen Sequence’ directed by Sumantra Ghoshal has been made celebrating her distinctive intellectual and creative approach to dance. The international premiere of the film was in early 2014 at the prestigious Dance on Camera Festival, Lincoln Center, New York. Recalling some of the challenges that came her way, the danseuse shares,
“The challenge was how does one take a concept and make it dance, especially when you’re thinking out of the box and to be authentic to classical dance and to the weaver and to the loom.”