Narthaki Nataraj has the world at her feet
Hailing from the temple town of Madurai, Narthaki Nataraj lives and breathes bharatanatyam. Widely considered a role model to the transgender community, owing to her numerous achievements in the field of dance, the 53-year-old takes pride in having been a disciple of the legendary KP Kittappa Pillai for 15 years. “If you studied at Oxford University, you would go around and flaunt it, wouldn’t you? Even today, in the world of dance, people give you a royal salute when you’re a student of Kittappa Pillai,” she says, beaming. Speaking of inspiration and immersion in her art, Narthaki’s 90-minute conversation this weekend with renowned life coach and author AVIS Viswanathan at Wandering Artist is titled The Artist’s Soul.
You could say that Narthaki was born to dance, given that she admits having discovered her identity through the medium. “My femininity and my dance are inseparable. I experience one through the other,” says the specialist of the Tanjore nayaki bhava, an ancient temple style.
Having dealt with more than her share of difficulties, Narthaki coined the Tamil word thiru-nangai, as a respectful way of referring to members of the third gender. “People will mock, but it isn’t my job to validate it. The fame and recognition I have today is a product of my hard work, and no one can take that away from me,” says the sole transgender recipient of the prestigious SNA Puraskar Award.
As the founder of the Velliyambalam School of Dance, which was recently converted to a trust, contributing 60 per cent of all proceeds to the transgender community, Narthaki believes that a safe place is all it takes to bring transgenders to a state of social acceptance. “It is not sympathy, but only merit and hard work that can earn success,” she says, adding that her success would mean little if she couldn’t give back to her community. She remarks, “Just as we are discussing me today, we will be discussing the successes of the Velliyambalam trust soon!”
Narthaki will be in conversation with AVIS Viswanathan at The Artist's Soul, Wandering Artist on July 8, 7 - 8:30 pm. Details: 9840111425