Visual Proof of Malavika Sarkar - Kathak Dancer and Ananda Bhairavi Star!

Sunday, May 13, 2012
Back in January, I had posted about the 1983 Telugu dance film Ananda Bhairavi and its star Malavika who performed some of my favorite film Kuchipudi sequences.  I had lamented the fact that there seemed to be no information available on the "Malavika" person--not even her last name (though I made a tenuous guess she might be Malavika Venkatsubbaiah- wrong!).

I certainly wasn't prepared for what happened next.  My wonderful commenters came to the rescue!  After a lengthy comment thread full of increasingly-wonderful finds, Gaddeswarup spoke to the male dancer in the film (Bhagavathula Venkata Rama Sarma) and reported back that the actress was indeed Malavika Sarkar who was a Kathak dancer (Lucknow gharana) and learned Kuchipudi for Ananda Bhairavi after being approached for the role by director Jandhyala.  I was stunned and amazed that she learned such crisp Kuchipudi just for the film!

At that point I figured that the research trail had come to its end.  The dancer had been identified and a bit of her history revealed, but it seemed that we would have to be content with that as no more information seemed available.

Which is my I'm so excited to report that I found a short description and photo of Malavika Sarkar in the "Contemporaries" section of Sunil Kothari's 1989 book Kathak - Indian Classical Dance Art!  Here is the photo and Kothari's description:


 "One of the bright stars in Kathak, young Malavika Sarkar was trained initially in Kathak by Prem Shankar.  Later on she studied intensively under the guidance of Lacchu Maharaj and soon made the grade on account of her natural gifts.  She took part in many dance-dramas choreographed by Lacchu Maharaj.  She has a natural grace and has imbibed Lacchu Maharaj's style in a commendable way.  She runs a dance school Lacchu Maharaj Nritya Niketan in Lucknow.  She is active giving solo recitals."  

The visual confirmation of her identity is such a treat! Those large, almond-shaped eyes are certainly hers.  Now there can be absolutely no question who the dancer in Ananda Bhairavi was and what form of dance she was trained in.   

Given that Kothari's book was published in 1989 and Ananda Bhairavi released in 1983, it's clear that she continued performing Kathak after the film and likely much beyond.  I wonder, though, how her stint with film "Kuchipudi" was received.  Did it affect her Kathak training at all?  Were purists upset?

It is disappointing that there seems to be no information online about her dance school, "Lacchu Maharaj Nritya Niketan." Even the school's mention in the listing of "Addresses of Dancers, Teachers, and Academies" in Reginald Massey's book India's Kathak Dance, Past, Present, Future has no address listed!  I wonder if the school is still around today and especially if the "bright star" of Kathak still performs.  The mystery remains...

I'll close with the "Thillana" song from Ananda Bhairavi featuring Malavika as the Kuchipudi dancer.  I wonder what Malavika thought of the Kathak dancer in the number! :)

8 comments:

  1. Bad news "Around half a dozen Dabang miscreants illegally occupied the house of Kathak dancer Malvika Sarkar when she left her house alone for seven days. The incident took place in house next to chief secretary's residence in Lucknow. The incident took place in house next to chief secretary's residence in Lucknow."
    English summary from
    http://hindi.oneindia.in/news/2011/05/29/miscreants-illegally-occupied-dancer-house-lucknow-aid0146.html
    I do not know Hindi; the news is from last year. Perhaps, it may be possible to find out more about her, if one has some contacts in Lucknow.

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    1. gaddeswarup - what an excellent sleuth you are! What's interesting is how they spelled her name "Malvika." I noticed that spelling results in a few more search results than Malavika does (though they still are not very helpful) so I'll have to keep that spelling in mind as I search in the future. How wonderful to hear some recent news about her and where she lives, but of course not so wonderful about what happened to her. Thanks as always for your detective work. :)

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    2. Research habit I guess and since I have retired, I have more free time. But it is all because of your excellent posts and links to various video and that Kuchpudi is close to where I was born and walked through it a few times stimulated my interest. Thanks to you, I am learning a bit about Indian dances and some of my background.

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    3. gaddeswarup - So glad to hear that! Thank you for the compliments and, again, for all of your wonderful comments and research help. :)

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  2. Hi! My highschool teacher from Lucknow is her sister. She is here in California and I am in touch with her but I am reluctant to share more information because I respect their privacy. If you send me your email, I will forward it to her.

    Sapna
    singhtaurus@yahoo.com

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    1. Mayavi - What wonderful news! I will be in touch!

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  3. Hi...did you finally talk to her!! Am really excited to know..today i saw Anandabhiravi movie in one of the Telugu channels and I was so impressed by her dancing and searched for her in google and I found her in your blog...please can you let me know if she is still teaching dancing and did you meet or contact her??

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    1. Hello! I'm glad you left this message because as I just now refreshed my memory of past comments on this post I realized I don't believe I ever reached out to the last commenter to pass a message along to Malavika! I have a bad habit of planning to do a particular research task and then forgetting after some time passes. I will put this back on my list of things to do. Glad to see another Malavika fan--her dancing in Anandabhairavi is fantastic and remains so every time I watch it.

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