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After leaving her husband, she wore ghungroos again and found solace in dance. From a background dancer in B-grade Tamil films, she slowly found success. And then something unexpected happened...
After leaving her husband, she wore ghungroos again and found solace in dance. From a background dancer in B-grade Tamil films, she slowly found success. And then something unexpected happened…
“Mandahaasam paada vrundam,Mukunda madhava nanda kumara………”
“Chan Chan!” the footwork of ghunghroos in perfect symphony to the rhythm of Krishna shabdham rented the air. Dance practice was in full swing at the hall adjacent to the visitor’s room.
“Madam, please, othukongo*(agree to it- in Tamil). You have to choreograph 2 songs for the film awards ceremony this year. I will not budge from here till you agree. See, I have brought the advance payment”, Shekaran, the event organiser waved a cheque leaf in front of my eyes baring his red betel-stained teeth.
“Here, take this and get lost. Don’t ever show your dirty face to me ever again,” he had thrown a cheque at my face. 10 years had passed but it felt like it was just yesterday.
I shook my head as if to push those thoughts off my mind. And Shekaran thought I was saying no to him.
” I will choreograph the dance, Shekaran. Give me the complete details…the song, the style and time duration.” I spoke in one breath accepting the cheque as Shekaran nodded his head in glee saying,” Mikka nanri,ma” *( thanks a lot).
” Mark my words, you will be finished. You have no future. Once the money that I have given you gets over you may have to beg” he had sneered.
Initially everything seemed hunky- dory as I entered his home and his life as a new bride. Being born and brought up in the village, the city life took me completely unawares. There I was under the clutches of my dad and here under Nitesh’s. I felt totally lost and depended on Nitesh for almost everything. That could be the reason for him taking me for granted.
There seemed to be no love lost between us. He would pick up a fight at the drop of a hat. I would bear it all hoping he would one day change for good.
I found solace in dance. ” You are very graceful Sachi. There is something in you which sets you apart from other dancers. Come what may, never give up your practice.” my guru had blessed me after I had completed 8 years of learning Bharatnatyam. Only I knew how difficult it was to overcome hurdles at home to learn dance. Appa was dead against me learning dance. With amma’s support I managed to hoodwink him and attended classes.
“You know who wears ghungroos? Take it out right now! If I see you dancing again I will throw you out of the house”, so saying, Nitesh had thrown my ghungroos out of the window when he had caught me dancing one evening.
I felt like a bird in a cage. I grit my teeth and bore it all. One I hoped things would change and two I knew I couldn’t go back home. Appa had washed his hands off me and now his focus was on getting my two younger sisters married.
The last straw on the camel’s back was when he started bringing other women home. No explanations given, no excuses sought.
That’s when something inside me split. I decided to leave. Though I was in such a helpless situation I didn’t shed a single tear. Enough was enough. I wanted to move on and start afresh.
A kind neighbour helped me find work as a background dancer in Tamil B- grade movies. Classical dance was my passion but twisting and twirling my body to beats of raunchy songs seemed a torture. It was certainly not my cup my tea. But I had to do it as now it was my bread and butter. The hard work didn’t deter me but warding off lechers seemed most difficult. It was like spreading a saree on a thorn everyday and ensuring it wouldn’t get even a tiny tear as I took it off carefully at the end of the day.
I watched film dance performances and learnt the art of jutting, thrusting and shaking my booty. From a B-grade film side dancer I moved to an A- grade film background dancer.
It is these obstacles- fending for myself, protecting my self dignity yet trying to find a foot hold is what transformed me from a squeaky-voiced, vulnerable villager to a loud mouthed, hard-hitting item song dancer.
Until about 5 years back when a movie based on a life story of a kathak dancer was shot. I immersed myself totally in the dance. When only the last part of the song needed to be practised the choreographer met with a fatal accident. The producer had to find an immediate replacement.
“Sir, Can I show you a few steps that would settle snugly into the song? I am a classical dancer sir. Please sir…just have a look” I had gasped when I got an opportunity to be close to the producer’s ear shot.
The producer looked at me from top to toe with ridicule but nevertheless let me try out of sheer frustration.
I said a silent prayer and showed him a few moves. Then stopped to let him decide. When he did not respond for nearly a minute I resigned to my fate. ” Wah! Wah! Nee rombo nalle dance panne”*( you dance very well) he applauded. From then on there was no looking back.
Slowly I moved from an assistant choreographer to choreographer. I aced at both classical and filmy dance choreography. Offers poured in like torrential rains. I opened my own dance school. Sachi was now Sucharita- the top choreographer of Kollywood. I initially it was money and fame, respect soon followed.
When I look back I feel all this would not have been possible without the mountain of obstacles placed before me. I owed it all to Nitesh. If not for him I would have been a door mat all my life.
” Amma, Yaaro Sachi ve thedinda vandhurka.* ( somebody has come asking for Sachi) I told him this was Sucharita madam’s house. But he refuses to go. Nan enna pannunu?” ( What should I do?) my chain of thoughts were interrupted by my maid’s loud voice.
” Send him in” I spoke nonchalantly.
Alcohol, smoking and stress had added years to his face. With a grey mop of unruly hair and long, scraggly beard.. faded, crumpled shirt.. he could be easily mistaken for a mendicant.
His eyes looked around the spacious mansion cum dance school in amazement.
” I am sorry Sachi for what I did to you. After you left me I lost everything. My job, my house. Now I have come to the streets. Please forgive me and take me back into your life” he begged. I was not Sachi anymore, Sucharita could easily see through his crocodile tears.
I took a deep breath to compose myself. My face was grim and didn’t project even an ounce of emotions. This is the result of the obstacle race I have been running tirelessly for years.
I pulled out a cheque book, filled in the details and threw it on his face. “Take this blank cheque and get out of my life. I am not giving you this out of sympathy. This is the reward I am giving you for all the challenges you laid out for me. If I see you again anywhere near this place I will get you arrested. Now leave,” I boomed.
From the corner of my eyes I could see him scamper away. After years I felt a sense of peace descend over me. I sank into a chair as tears ran down my cheeks. These were not tears of bitterness but the tears which washed down the pain of the past. I quickly wiped away the tears and peeped into the practice hall.
“Tataya tayum tata tam,Gokulamudhi chandirasundara…”
Who could ever say that these 15 professional dancers were once slum dwellers?
Seeing their stance and confidence my shoulders rose up with pride, with a big smile on my face I barged in to join them.
Image source: Still from The Dirty Picture
I am a certified digital content writer. I enjoy reading and writing. My thoughts effortlessly cascade down into ripples of short stories and poems. For me, writing has proven to be cathartic. Fitness and diet read more...
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