Coming soon: The dance of the false-legged horse

Coming soon: The dance of the false-legged horse

It was raining so hard, the roads had turned into rivers. The taxi driver had a lot of difficulty finding the house. For a moment, he suggested turning back. Am glad we didn’t – for that’s when I met my heroine – Kamachi, a poikkal kuthirai dancer. That evening (three years ago, in August 2013) Kamachi’s husband – the multi-award winning artist Nadi Rao – and their sons spoke to me at length about their art form, and all that ails it. They told me how there was a time they turned down performances, they were so many that came their way. They told me how they feel neglected in their home town, in their own state. Of what use are awards, Nadi Rao asked me sharply. ‘Can we eat them?’ To eat, they (literally) had to grow their own paddy. It was stored upstairs in jute sacks. When the showers got heavier, Kamachi ran up, to store them away from the lashing rain. Her sons went along to help.
Kamachi spoke briefly that day. She spoke of discriminations that are unique to female artists. I met the Raos several times over the next few years: when the men came to perform once at the Music Academy (they played the ‘Gondal’ drums); when the family came back from a performance in Delhi, and we shot a video of them dancing; and the last time, back again, in their house in Thanjavur.
It was when I met her for the third time that Kamachi spoke to me at length. I wrote about her, my heroine, in The Hindu’s Sunday Magazine. That day, her husband was away and she spoke freely, frankly.
The outside world however, knows only her husband. And now, her sons. She is the wife, the grand-mother, the dancer, the cook, the farmer, the chicken-rearer, the home-maker. And she transforms from the 67-year-old that she is, into a Dancer when she puts on make-up and the heavy gear (nearly 50 kgs) and dances to the beat of the Maratha drums. Nadi Rao is even older – he’s 74 now – and still dances, energetically, never missing a beat.
I want to go back and meet them again, soon.
In the meantime, I’d love for you to see the video we made about their lives.
‘The dance of the false-legged horse’ will go up soon on the People’s Archive of Rural India.
Do watch to know more about their lives. They are incredible artists. And story tellers.
And human beings.
Tomorrow…. the dance of the false-legged horse…

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