Bharatanatyam dancer and guru Urmila Sathyanarayanan was just nine when she was chosen to perform a piece on Doordarshan, after the channel was launched in Madras in August 1975 Her love for dancing and singing as a child provided her an opportunity to face a television camera, even before her arangetram. “At that age, I would readily dance and sing whenever someone asked me to, since I loved to perform
Narayanaswamy sir, a producer from Doordarshan Kendra, Madras, asked me to perform when television was launched here. Though my mother said I had not even presented my arangetram, my master, Dhandayuthapani Pillai, gave the go-ahead and I performed a Tamil song that was not a part of the Bharatanatyam paddhathi,” she said. A student of Saraswathi Gana Nilayam initially, her first performance was at the age of four, when she danced at the 60 birthday celebration of her grandfather, Dr. Nammalwar. “I did the part of Krishna in that dance presented by students of Gana Nilayam,” she said. The Kendra, located on Swami Sivananda Salai, was newly constructed and inaugurated on August 15, 1975. “I remember there was air conditioning there even back then, and they had make-up rooms and artistes’ and costume rooms at the station. Though it was the first time I was facing a camera, I was only excited and there was no fear.
The entire family came together to watch the performance on TV,” said Ms. Sathyanarayanan, who has a special place for Doordarshan in her heart. Years later, when she performed during the launch of another TV channel, she recalls how they did not even have a proper studio and held their inaugural ceremony in a marriage hall. “It was so hot, they didn’t have airconditioning, and the orchestra was made to sit in the pit while I was on stage. These were such contrasting situations,” she said.
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