Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 3, May 16-31, 2018

Developing a hub for culture

by V.S. Ravikumar

Birth of a Colony – 3

Page 6 top

Drama artist R.S.Manohar as Chief Guest during one of the function. Also seen in the picture is actress Rajasulochana.

After residents started occupying the bungalows in Gandhi Nagar from the second half of 1949, they not only took early initiatives to start schools, but also began clubs and initiated cultural activities.

Music, dance schools, and drama troupes were founded/started by individual and group initiatives.

The Adyar Art Akademy was started in 1954 to conduct music and drama performances for the benefit of the residents. An open air theatre known as Kalki Mandapam, named after the popular writer ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy, who was a resident of 4th Main Road (he passed away in 1954), was constructed on land provided by the The Madras Co-operative House Construction Society Ltd in 1955-56. The theatre had an orchestra pit and dressing rooms and could stage drama and dance programmes.

Guntur Narasimha Rao and Ch.Ramabrahmam, President and Treasurer of the Akademy respectively, put in great efforts in the theatre’s construction. Their bungalows are two of the very few remaining in Gandhi Nagar that still retain their original design. Guntur Narasimha Rao’s house is the first bungalow at the beginning of 4th Main Road and Ch.Ramabrahmam’s house is on 2nd Canal Cross Road. Hats off to their family members for preserving the houses intact!

According to the 1955 Annual Report of the Akademy, one Harikatha, one mimicry, six music and nine dance performances were performed during the year. There were seven life members, 57 special and 102 ordinary members on their rolls. The first anniversary of the Akademy was celebrated for four days from April 1, 1955. Many music and drama performances were held in the theatre in subsequent years. Great actors like Y.G. Parthasarathy (YGP), R.S. Manohar, Sandhya (Jayalalitha’s mother), her sister Vidya, Padmini and Rajasulochana were some of those featured. R.S. Manohar’s historic drama Ilangeswaran was staged there. The Akademy after being active for about six or seven years became defunct. The auditorium is now part of Bala Vidya Mandir School.

Page 6 middle picture

First floor of the author’s grandfather’s house used by the Nilayam for conducting classes. Hall-stage in author’s house where classes were held.

To promote dance and music in Gandhi Nagar, my father constructed a separate hall in his residential premises. He requested K. Lalitha of the Sri Saraswathy Gana Nilayam, Triplicane, to conduct dance and music classes for the benefit of the residents and gave the hall free of charge. From 1950 till 1961, music and dance classes were held here. Our house used to vibrate with dance and Carnatic music and was popularly known as “Dance Veedu”.

My maternal grandfather, C. Ranganatha Aiyengar, who owned a bungalow on 2nd Canal Cross Road, also offered the first floor of his house free of cost to the nilayam to conduct classes. Thus, music and dance classes were held in both premises on specified dates and at timings. The teachers came from Triplicane to conduct the classes. The nilayam charged nominal fees for the different courses and many residents took advantage of the facility and joined the classes.

Nrithyodaya is a well-known dance institution founded by that great film-maker and Director K. Subrahmanyam in 1942. It is even now run by his daughter Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam at 4th Main Road. For some time, in the early years, it functioned from 1st Main Road. It has completed 75 years (Platinum Jubilee) and has trained more than 2,500 students.

Another noted Bharatanatyam dancer, Adyar K. Lakshman, a product of Kalakshetra, started his dance classes at 4th Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, in the mid-1970s next to our residence. He was our neighbour till 1993. He founded the Bharatha Choodamani Academy of Fine Arts to train students. His brothers and sister were also part of the Academy. The Academy moved to Crescent Avenue Road, as my neighbour decided to demolish the building and turn it to an apartment complex.


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  1. Lakshmi Priya says:

    This is Anjali Devi not rajasulochana

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