A Nangiar in the world of Natyam- Meera Nangiar
Arts Speak

A Nangiar in the world of Natyam- Meera Nangiar

Divya Menon

Divya Menon

A few years ago, breaking cliche to follow the call of her heart, a Nangiar from Irinjalakuda strode into the vibrant world of Natyam to become a captivating danseuse with nimble steps, inimitable grace and charm.

She crossed borders into Chennai seeking the purpose of her life. Many years hence, on 19 October 2019, she unveiled a simplistically crafted, elegant platform at Irinjalakuda before lovers of her art and art connoisseurs. She calls it Natyarangam - the space that she always wished to have.

Space, Natyam, Arangu are multi-dimensional words that hold myriad connotations for most people but for Meera Nangiar who grew up in the artistically charged environs of Irinjalakuda, these words simply define who she is, they refine her perception of the world, and are deeply embedded within her life. They are one with her goals and the principles she strives to uphold. For Meera, born in the lineage of Kunjippillakutty Nangiaramma and the great Mizhaavu Vidwan Kochukuttan Nambiar, Natyarangam or an 'arangu for natyam' literally translated as a 'stage for dance' is the realization of many sentiments, memories, ambitions and life this far.

A space that offers the luxury of being able to dance before an enthralled audience, in the radiance of the flickering flame of the humble oil lamp that casts graceful silhouettes that dance alike in the background, a space sans distracting backdrops and embellishments, a Gurukul where teaching and learning happen in absolute chastity reviving old traditions, a platform for artistically inclined beings to come together and share ideas, a stage where performances can be shared; are a handful of hopes that Meera has for her Natyarangam.

As the great grand daughter of Kunjippillakutty Nangiaramma, one would have imagined her to follow in the footsteps of her illustrious ancestor and manifest wonders in the world of the ancient theatrical dance form of Nangiarkoothu which at one time was considered to 'belong' to the women from the Nambiar caste of Kerala. However, Meera was always attracted towards Natyam from girlhood and this insatiable passion towards Natya or dance, first landed her before Kalanilayam Jyothilakshmi teacher who perfected her basics, then Kalamandalam Kshemavathy teacher and then finally at Kalakshetra in Chennai.

At Kalakshetra she trained rigorously for six years under brilliant teachers like Sheejith Krishna, Ganga Thampi, Nandini Nagaraj, Leela Samson and others. Study at Kalakshetra threw open many opportunities before the young danceuse from an ancient art promoting family of Kerala and she performed widely in many dance dramas conceived by the legendary Rukmini Devi Arundale and also with the charismatic Leela Samson and others at many platforms both in India and beyond the frontiers, so to say.

Recalling her days at Kalakshetra she says, "during my six years of study at this world acclaimed centre, simply by watching I learnt a lot more alongside dance, like, I learnt how to perceive art, the art of learning and how to appreciate art! I learnt so much about space beauty, ambience and colours". She adds that her Kalakshetra experience is not one that stays trapped within a classroom or a course material or within the grammar of an art form but on the contrary is one that extends beyond the fringes of art and spills onto the greater canvas called life. She says, "nurturing life and culture is a skill I gained from Kalakshetra". After her post-diploma at Kalakshetra, she went on to teach there for a year before returning to Irinjalakuda to pursue a degree in Fine Arts. Around this time she trained under G. Venu to perfect the art of emotive expression and today she continues to learn Bharatanatyam under her Guru Sheejith Krishna whilst also teaching her own students and managing a home!

Speaking to Meera Nangiar, one meets a rare sort of simplicity and purity characteristic of the ancient ritualistic Nangiarkoothu, that suddenly becomes all too palpable in her words and smile. Be it in following the instructions of her spiritual Guru Sri Thaamatoor Sivasankaran Nair, be it in the dreams she nurtures for her Natyarangam or be it in her efforts to revitalise the element of spirituality in Bharatanatyam, one comes across a danseuse and teacher who perceives dance in everything in life. She says, "art and the artist are not two separate entities. Just as you cannot take out the art from an artist, you cannot imagine art without an artist".