One of south India's leading choreographer and national award winner kala master entered the film world at the age of 12. While she was in seventh standard she dropped her school education in order to pursue her natural interest in choreography.
Being one of seven daughters in a middle class family is not a situation that encourages mega dreams. But Kala could dance, and her sister married Raghuram, the dance master. Add a third one — she had a high persistence quotient. For three years (1987-90) she worked for Tamil films, followed it with Telugu and Malayalam movies. In the 15 years since her first independent assignment she has got almost every actor, junior and senior, hopping, skipping, jumping and turning to her beats. From 1994 to 2001 she grabbed every offer, at one point driving 60 km every day between the Hindi version of "Thevar Magan" and the dance sequences of "Vanaja Girija".
For the 1996 Miss World extravaganza, she lined up 320 city college students and choreographed a classical number. "I was 26, but I was sharp." She filled the gap between assignments giving dance lessons and in two years was ready for her first "show". Movies gave her the break but it's stage dance that gives her satisfaction. It allows her freedom to experiment. "The Prashanth programme in Malaysia, a big show with 7 heroines, telecast to global audiences, pushed me to stardom."
Kala's merit is in popularising a peculiar dance form, cobbled together with borrowings from classical, Indian folk, bhangra and western steps. In a measure of luck, her cine-dance happened when we were breaking our cultural clichés. With talent and hard work, Kala evolved and stabilised an art form most suited to that time. In doing that she captured the imagination of the young. Her brand of dance gave everyone a chance.
The one project she counts as special achievement is training 700 policemen to shed their stiffness and move with grace. "I had just eight days. End of first day, I couldn't sleep. How would I get them to dance? But a great master is one who can make non-dancers dance." She "loved it," when at the end of the show they made a perfect formation in Tamil.
She has won the State and National awards, Filmfare and Screen awards. Hollywood may not yet be ready for her type of dance. So a cine dance institute looks like a good idea to give her art a permanent place to thrive. I work fast, she says. "Once the job is done, I'm a lazy bone. I can't stand indiscipline, insincerity and lying. I just go ballistic. I'm not influenced by anyone. I definitely don't watch MTV or SS. My choreography is my own. I struggled hard. When other girls were hanging around or chatting, I was planning the next steps on stage. I am grateful to my parents for allowing me to follow my star. And my sisters — we are good friends. My greatest happiness is performing for social causes."