Had Rukmani Devi Arundale (Founder of Kalakshetra, the foremost school of Bharata Natyam in India) been alive, she would have been proud of the achievements of one of her finest students, now living, practicising, teaching and breathing the great Indian classical dance.
Queen Elizabeth II appointed Vivek Kinra as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in her Birthday Honours List announced on June 7, recongnising the services he has rendered to Indian Dance.
The Wellington based Director, Choregrapher and Principal of the Mudra Dance Academy is perhaps among a handful of experts who confine themselves to the tenets of Bharata Natyam, without straying into the repulsive area of Bollywood.
As an Alumni of Kalakshetra, Mr Kinra continuosly demonstrated the glory and dignity of Bharata Natyam for more than 20 years in the Capital.
Call it the spiritual aspect or the purity of the art, it cames alive everytime he or his students get on the stage to present dance concerts.
Thousands of students have graduated through the portals of his Academy over the years and with at least 100 students enrolled at any time, he pursues a busy day..
Mr Kinra goes through a punishing schedule that includes teaching, choregraphing and developing new programmes and demonstrations. He inevitably subjects his students as well to such a routine.
“Innovation should be the spirit behind the penchant of every artiste to take this pure classical dance to exalted levels,” he said.
Mr Kinra works with a passion for the ancient Indian art and his talent has been well recognised over the years. ‘Creative New Zealand’ and ‘Asia NZ Foundation’ have been among his illustrious supporters.
Among his major productions are ‘Shiva the Cosmic Dancer,’ ‘Ashta Nayika,’ ‘Vaishnavam,’ ‘Rasa the Emotional Journey,’ ‘Shiva Geeti Mala,’ ‘Krishna the Divine Lover,’ ‘Utsav,’ ‘Chakra,’ ‘Angika,’ ‘Shree Ram Katha,’ ‘Incarnations,’ ‘Anand: Joy in Motion,’ and ‘Bharatam.’
“I am humbled by the honour bestowed in me and I hope to be worthy of such a high award (MNZM),” he said.
To the members of the Wellington Indian Association (WIA) and the New Zealand Indian Central Assocaition (NZICA), he is a force to reckon with and a man of action. He has been the President of both, bringing dignity and honour to a number of projects and programmes.
It was therefore no surprise that the New Zealand Government considered Ratilal Champaneri for the award of a Queen’s Service Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
“I am honoured and privileged,” he said, when we called to congratulate him in the early hours of June 7.
Since his arrival in New Zealand from his native India in 1978, Mr Champaneri has been associated with the Indian community. He served WIA for several years, progressing through the posts of Treasurer, Assistant Secretary, General Secretary and Vice-President, before moving to NZICA, serve the apex body as Auditor, General Secretary, Vice-President and President.
He initially worked in the family company involved in the manufacture of plastic bags, before deciding to run a franchised Four Square Shop. Four years later, he moved to the Wellington Hospital as a fulltime employee. He currently works for the Justice Ministry as a Payroll specialist.
“The Queen’s Medal is a great honoured bestowed on me and I hope to prove that I am worthy of this award,” Mr Champaneri said.
Paul Chunilal Patel
His disarming smile is not only enchanting but also contagious. For most residents of Palmerston North, Wanganui and the Manawatu- Hawk’s Bay areas, he is endeared as Paul, while the Indian community knows him as Nanubhai.
A man of vision and hard work, Nanubhai has initiated and successfully concluded several projects for the benefit of the community.
A third generation New Zealander, he is an effective bridge beween the mainstream and Indian communities.
According to many, Nanubhai has helped to raise the image of the Indian community through involvement in local boards, festivities and community acitivities.
He was the spirit behind the formation of the New Zealand Indian Sports Association in the area. He is currently representing the community at the CDIA on the Manawatu Multicultural Council.
He reportedly declined an offer to appoint him as the President of the Council to concentrate on more important issues.
“I am happy to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal,” he said.