Teacher-student bond culminates in Bharata Natyam debut

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Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, June 2, 2021


                                                          Bharata Natyam demands discipline and devotion

 The dream of a South Indian family, of a Guru, of a number of colleagues and friends and the artiste herself will come true as a Bharata Natyam Arangetram of Mugdha Maddali is held from 4 pm on June 27, 2021 at the Little Theatre in Lower Hutt, located at 2 Queens Drive, Hutt Central.

It will in effect be fructification of the efforts of Mugdha Maddali, and her Guru Prabha Ravi, Director and Principal of Natraj School of Dance.

To her parents, Venkat Maddali and Himaja, the graduation ceremony will be a milestone to be celebrated and cherished.

Mugdha, a Year 9 Student at St James in Lower Hutt, was born and raised in Wellington. She has been a student of Ms Ravi for the past eight years.

Source of inspiration and guidance

“Since my formative years, I was interested in learning Bharata Natyam and when I was introduced to Ms Ravi, I was inspired by her high level of professionalism and teaching standards. Encouraged by my parents, I decided to join her School. I considered myself extremely fortunate when Ms Ravi accepted me as her student,” she said.

Although she has a few years to decide on her future career, Mugdha has already set her mind on medical sciences and hopes to study neurosciences and pursue her higher education and perhaps vocation overseas.

She evinces equal interest in Indian and Western Classica Music, Bhajans, Piano and the Cello. An avid reader, she is also

But for now, her focus is on her Arangetram.

Inspiring Teacher-Student relationship: Prabha Ravi with Mugdha Maddali

Pursuit of Excellence

“Training under Ms Ravi is tough and she does not spare any effort to achieve perfection. She does not believe in ‘Ok, let us do it tomorrow,’ and she would not hesitate to extend the class hours until she is confident that I have reached up to her expectations,” Mugdha said.

Which is perhaps why only a small number of students have made it to their Arangetram since the School began 22 years ago.

Mugdha hopes not only to remain in close contact with her Guru even after her Arangetram.

“My teacher has been a part of my life for many years. That cannot change,” she said.  

Ms Ravi is confident that her student will excel at her Arangetram.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching Mugdha. She has demonstrated genuine commitment and passion for Bharata Natyam. She continuously strives to improve in her understanding and presentation of this art form. She is an amazing student that any teacher would love to have in her class,” she said.

The Varnam challenges every debut artiste

 About Prabha Ravi

The Natraj School of Dance in Wellington is among the bastions of the art of Bharata Natyam.

Prabhavathi (better known as Prabha) Ravi, who established the school in 2002 (although she started teaching the art in 1999) at her home in Lower Hutt, has singularly fostered its structure, form, course content and quality of teaching and learning.

Her penchant for dancing sprung from her innate passion for the arts and took her (at the age of three) to Kalaimamani Krishnakumari Narendran, a renowned Bharata Natyam teacher who runs ‘Abinaya Natyalaya’ in Chennai.

Following her Arangetram in Chennai at the age of nine, Ms Ravi pursued advance training under Guru Udupi Sri Lakshminarayan (who was honoured with the Acharya Choodamani (or ‘Uncrowned Master’) title at an art conference held in the Tamil Nadu capital in December 2002).

Ms Ravi is credited with more than 100 solo Bharata Natyam performances in various academies and associations in Tamil Nadu and at community and dance festivals held in Canada, Sri Lanka and the US.

Wellingtonians and visitors have seen her performing at a number of functions organised by the Wellington City Council and associations.

Students of The Natraj School of Dance have added dignity and honour to their Guru with their energetic display of talents over the past several years in Wellington, Manawatu and Auckland. Specialising in the Pandanallur and Kancheepuram Ellappa styles, Ms Ravi has been a source of inspiration to her students, many of whom would nourish the ambition of graduating in the art.

Supporting Artistes

Giving vent to the rising talent of local artistes, Ms Ravi has put together a team of support artistes from New Zealand. This could be another first for a Bharata Natyam Arangetram, which usually witnesses artistes from India and Australia.

“Covid-19 has placed enormous restrictions on the movement of people. However, on a positive note, I believe that it has accorded us a unique opportunity to promote our own artistes resident in this country. There is ample talent among our young people, which should be harnessed and promoted. I am proud of our supporting artistes,” Mr Ravi said.

Among the artistes will be Ms Ravi (Nattuvangam, traditionally the forte of the Guru), Aiswarya Venkataraman and Gayatri Srinivasan (Vocal), Saketh Vishnubotla (Veena), Avinash Jeyashankar (Mridangam), Pavan Mani (Violin) and Ikram Singh (Tabla).

Mugdha will present Balamurali Krishna’s Thillana

 About the Arangetram

Ms Ravi has chosen and choreographed eight items plus the sign off (Mangalam) specially for Mugdha, taking into account her proclivities and proficiencies. ‘Varasika Vahana’ will be a special item, featuring a composition of Saint Thyagaraja glorifying the Peacock and its Rider Lord Murugan. Set to Supradeep Raagam and Aadi Talam, this number will certainly test the agility of the performer.

For Varnam, the piece de resistance of a Bharata Natyam Arangetram, Mugdha will present ‘Amma Ananda Dayani,’ a tribute to Goddess Shakthi (or Durga) and invoke Her blessings. The late Dr Balamurali Krishna had composed this song and rendered it in Gambira Nattai Raagam, set to Aadi Talam.

Thillana will also be a unique in that it will feature another composition of Dr Balamurali Krishna in Kuntalavarali Raagam and Aadi. Known as a ‘Light Raaga,’ this number will be a fitting conclusion to the event.
(All Pictures supplied by Venkat Maddali)

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