SR : I am Shyamala Surendran a house wife who took up dancing at the age of 34 years. Until this time I was sailing with my husband who was a Merchant navy Captain. I used to do folk dance and a sort of Bharatanatyam without knowing any thing of the item. I did not know the raga or tala of the item I learnt. Just copied what Guru taught at college like a parrot to perform for the college annual day. Formal training started in 1982 under a disciple of The Dhananjayan Couple of Chennai at Kochi. Did my arrengetram (debut) in 1984 at Guruvayoor Srikrishna temple. In 1985 went to Chennai and started learning under the Dhananjayans themselves and learnt Abhinaya under Padmabhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan whith whom I was staying as a paying guest. In 1986 Oct. I started learning Mohiniyattam the solo dance of Kerala.
Now I teach Bharatanatyam but I perform Mohiniyattam because that is more my style.
SR : I started Dharani so that I can be in touch with dance in Kochi , when I came back from Chennai and also to take away the children from looking at dance just as a means for joing the unhealthy competition (Youth Festivals held by the Kerala Government for schools and colleges). I started trying to change just a few but now I have about 200 students. We have started Society Dharani as a subsidiary of the Trust to bring good classical programmes to Kochi.
SR : I have been performing since by debut performances just once in a way . I did go for two months performing with my Guru Padmabhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan U.K.Europe, USA and Canada. But from 2000 onwards I have been going out side India to perform more often. This year I went for two months with 7 of my students to the USA and performed frpm west to East. And then I went alone to Russia for two weeks for performing and taking workshops. since 2000
SR : Mohiniyattam is a total Lasya (Very Graceful) danceform with rounded movements. Its movements are as soft as the tender paddy plants swaying in the soft breeze. As the name implies she enchants the audience.
SR : Each dance form develops froms the culture of that place. So if you look at it could be possible that the costume is also taken from the simple off white SET& MONDU that the Keralite women wear.
SR : The main difference is that Bharatanatyam has straight lines movements and Mohiniyattam has rounded movements. There is a sprin like effect for the Mohiniyattam were as in Bharatanatyam there is a marked finish which is strong. This is very clear only when you show the two styles. The mudras are different. The similarities are in the reportoire. Some of the items are common but done at a very slow pace in Mohiniyattam.
SR : All the art forms of Kerala uses the same hand gesture taken from the book called hastalakshana deepika ,the author is unknown. Other than the mudras (hand Gestures) the music is also sopana style of rendering though carnatic style has been adapted for the style.
SR : Yes it does represent the Malayali culture especially the women of Kerala who seem very soft and mild outside but very strong inside, Mohiniyattam is also very soft outside but it has stong posture and stance.
SR : Malayali artistes .There plenty of them. Each fields I take there are so many names to be mentioned. Cinema Mohanlal is a very versatile artise. Bharat Gopi, late Sathyan, Late Shobha is a born actress. Even artistes like Suhasini, Urvashi Sharada who have come from other states should their best in the malayalam movies. In Koodiyattam we have late Mani Madhava Chakkiar and now we have Ammannur Madhava Chakkiar. Raja ravi Varma's paintings are so real. Late Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair in Kathakali and now Sri.Kalamandalam Gopi, Kathakali sangeetham , Sri Kalamandalam Hyderali & Kottakal Madhu and Sri Kavalam Srikumar for carnatic and sopana music.
SR : You can't say that it is different from other states. We do have a lot of folk art forms in Kerala almost as good as classical art forms. The maritial art Kalaripayattu is very graceful and strong. The only sanskrit theatre left in India is here in Kerala the Koodiyaatam. Due to its geographic position they were trades coming into Kerala and Keralites going out even from very early times so it has influenced the people .
SR : No I have nobody in the Reunion Islands. I have heard of the place as a very beautiful place. Smt. Shanta Dhananjayan told me that it is a beautiful island and that there are lot of Indian descents there. Yes of course I would like to perform anywhere dance is appreciated provided my travel and hopitality at that end is taken care off.