The Devdasi National Award 2018 festival founder, Jagabandhu Jena has announced that the Mohiniyattam exponent and lawyer, Natyapraveena and Nritya Shiromani, Rashmi Menon has bagged the prestigious award. The previous winner of this award includes Dr. Sunanda Nair, the Houston, the US based exponent of Mohiniyattam.
Rashmi Menon, the disciple of Kalamandalam Kshemavathy will receive the coveted award at the festival to be held in the capital of Odhisha, Bhubaeswar on December 12, 2018.
When contacted by The News India, Rashmi Menon, who busy preparing for her Mohiniyattam performance this evening at 6.30 PM at Regional Theatre, Thrissur, KT Muhammed Smaraka Hall, at a Mohiniyattam Workshop, organised by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy, squeezed to share some time and speak about her achievements.
Ramassery, in Palakkad district is famous for the delicacy Idali, that is steamed with the traditional earthen vessel. The traditional idaly, well rounded and slim, resembling another traditional Kerala dish, Aappam, nevertheless, the taste it gives in contrast with the conventional form of idali is vastly different. Ramassery Idali is not only famous in India, but also far off destinations such as the US! What is the link between Ramassery Idali and Rashmi Menon. Well, her mother hails from Vadavattath Tharavad (ancestral matriarchal house name), which has produced many artists, stalwarts and sports persons. Although, Rashmi grew up in Ernakulam and other places, her roots are in Ramassery village in Elapully Panchayat of Palakkad district. Like the spongy white sweet Ramassery Idali, Rashmi too wears the traditional white Mohiniyattam attire, performs so gracefully like a swan and works very hard scaling heights and looking beyond.
Speaking about her genesis of Mohiniyattam learning, Rashmi says, “I started learning dance as early as age four under the tutelage of Savithri. I had undergone intense training in Mohiniyttam, Bharathanatyam and Kuchipudi under the able guidance of the disciples of Guru Late Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, including Kalalayam Mohandas and Kalalayam Kumar for 18 years.”
A lawyer by profession, she quit her job in order to fulfil her overriding ambition of becoming a Mohiniyattam exponent and focused on intense training. Rashmi is also a Post Graduate Diploma holder in dance forms like Mohiniyattam, Bharathanatyam and Kuchipudi. Out of these three South Indian classical dance forms she has mastered through rigorous practise, Rashmi found her true calling in Mohiniyattam, the most graceful, yet quite a difficult dance form to master. Pallavi Krishnan trained her Mohiniyattam for few years, where she learned the nuances of the dance form, but thanks to her unending quest for refinement and perfection, Rashmi became a disciple of Kalamandalam Kshemavathi, one of the leading practitioners of Mohiniyattam. Kalamandalam Kshemavathi is imparting the intrinsic and intricate nuances of Mohiniyattam to Rashmi and is guiding her through the deeper realms of her passion. Bragha Bessel is guiding Rashmi in terms of making her comprehend the intricacies of Abhinaya. Rashmi gives Mohiniyattam performance across the country.
Mohiniyattam, Dance of Enchantress
Rashmi gives a nice description of Mohiniyattam on her website, “Serene undulation of a feminine form with the feather touches of dance from the land of swaying palm trees, Kerala is Mohiniyattam. The soft and languorous movements of Mohiniattam are reminiscent of the swaying palm trees and gently flowing rivers. The term Mohini means enchantress and Attam means dance. Literally meaning “Dance of the Enchantress”, Mohiniattam dance form is distinguished by a beautiful feminine style with surging flow of body movements.
The musical melody and the rhythmical swaying of the dancer from side to side and the smooth and unbroken flow of the body movement is the striking feature of the dance form. The movements are never abrupt, but dignified , easy, natural, restrained and yet subtle. The glances, postures, gait employed are so subtle and graceful that they convey the infinite suggestiveness of radiant love. The Mohiniyattam dance focuses mainly on feminine moods and emotions. Usually the theme of Mohiniattam dance is “sringara” or love. Subtle subjects of love are executed with suggestive abhinaya, subtle gestures, rhythmic footwork and lilting music.
It was during the reign of the great poet King Maharaja Swathi Thirunal that Mohiniyattam received considerable patronage. After his untimely demise, adverse circumstances led to the decline of this dance form till when in the 1930’s Mahakavi Vallathol founded the Kerala Kalamandalam and once again revived the dance form joining hands with Mukunda Raja.
“Classical dance fusion” by the South central zone cultural centre (SCZCC) at Taj Falaknuma, Hyderabad on November 28, 2017 for GES ’17 (global entrepreneur Shop summit).
Rashmi is also the founder director of Sree Rajarajeswari School of Dance in Kerala and Laavania, the Centre for Learning Classical Dances in Kilpauk, Chennai. Rashmi has trained scores of students in Kerala all the three dance forms and organised Arangetram of several batches of students before she relocated to Chennai, where she is continues to foster and guide the new generation of aspiring artists in Mohiniyattam and Bharathanatyam. Rashmi is a familiar face in popular television channels in Chennai with her performance being telecast on various occasions.
Krishna Nee Yennai Ariyilla by Rashmi Menon
A graded Doordharshan artist in bot Mohiniyattam and Bharatanatyam, Rashmi has performed in several high profile stages such as the Indian Dance Festival at Mamallapuram, near Chennai thrice, Uday Shankar Festival Kolkata, conducted by West Bengal State Sangeet Natak Academy, Cuttak International Festival, Music Academy Chennai, Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy, Sree Chithirathirunal Festival, Kerala Tourism Programmes, Deccan Dance Festival, pallavotsava, Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple, NCPA Mumbai; Kalakshethram Mumbai; Rabindra Bharati in Hyderabad; Taj Vivanta in Hyderabad; Chowdiah Hall in Bangalore; Pallavotsava in Mysore; Auroville in Pondicherry (Puducherry); Mount Abu in Rajasthan; Abhinaya Sudha, Narada Gana Sabha, Karthik Fine Arts, The Mylapore Fine Arts, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Mylapore, All India Radio Chennai; Kadavallur Anyonyam and more. Rashmi was conferred with Kaladarpanam in 2004 for her versatility.
A graceful performer to the hilt and an amazing choreographer par excellence, Rashmi is a sought after collaborator with many established artists in the Indian Classical Horizon. Winner of the Indian Dance Series Contest 2012, Rashmi is also honoured with Natya Praveena title for creativity in choreography and Nrithya Shiromani award for the excellence in her filed and her contribution and efforts to promote and popularise Mohiniyattam. Also, Rashmi is honoured with an award of excellence by SS Mukundapuram Taluk in Kerala. Rashmi was well appreciated for her excellent performance in her debut short-film titled, Wings of Freedom. Last, but not the least, Rashmi has also worked as Assistant Choreographer (Mohiniyattam) for the Malayalam film, Swapaanam, Directed by the award winning film maker, Shaji N Karun.