|Dhananjayan as Nandanar (Source)|
While browsing through the Indian National Film Award program archives (another awesome discovery and subject of an upcoming post!), I noticed Kann Sivandhaal Mann Sivakkum had won a National Award for the "Best First Film of a Director." On a whim, I decided do some googling and see if anything new from the film was online and low and behold YouTuber rdhinakar uploaded the entire film as well as all individual songs a month back!
The film (according to the NFA description) basically tells the story of an American NRI woman who comes to India and seeks the help of an artist to help her create a classical dance about Nandanar, the legendary Harijan saint who lived in the 10th century. Apparently the artist convinces her to create a folk dance instead and the two travel to the heart of Tamilnadu to find a famous exponent of the Theru-Koothu (Tamil street play) tradition. The film won the National Award for its "original interpretation of a deep-rooted social evil, combining folk art with modern cinematic idiom."
The male dancer seen at the start of the clip below is V.P. Dhananjayan, the famous Bharatanatyam exponent and male half of the accomplished dancing Bharatanatyam duo V.P. and Shanta Dhananjayan! From reading information found at the Dhananjayan's dance academy website (Bharata Kalaanjali) and in an article about the couple in The Hindu (The Elusive Celluloid), it seems that V.P. Dhananjayan had performed a 30 minute solo dance for the film in the open air theatre of the Cholamandal Artists Village. When the film was finally released, Dhananjayan and director Sridhar Rajan were upset to learn that the dance had been edited down to only a few minutes ("a matter of shame," said a reviewer). Dhananjayan apparently became well known for his Nandanar dance after the film and later developed it into a full solo dance drama.
So here is the clip! It begins with V.P. Dhananjayan's solo which is lovely- always a treat to see the rare male classical dancer on film and even more of a treat to see one with clear classical training (the Dhananjayan's trained at Kalakshetra). The song continues with a beautiful scene of Bharatanatyam practice with Dhananjayan as the nattuvanar/guru. A woman performs solo first and then some younger dancers rise to practice- I love the cutie in the middle! The performance immediately brings to mind the Kalakshetra sequence in Louis Malle's Phantom India. Clearly an authentic film Bharatanatyam number. Apparently the dances form the beginning of the song "Vandhale Allipoo."
The film also has a couple separate Theru-Koothu performances which are a bit hard to watch without knowing the language but very dramatic and colorful.
Last, I was surprised to read that K. Viswanath had apparently asked Dhananjayan to perform the role of the male dancer in Salangai Oli after Viswanath's first choice, Kamal Haasan, refused to shave his mustache off! Given Haasan's final casting in the film, the mustache issue apparently got resolved. :)