'Kalavani', 'Natya Nipuni', 'Natya Tilakam', 'Natanakala Bhushanam', 'Shrestrakala Acharya' are some of the titles conferred on Rajee Narayan. A profile of this versatile danseuse and singer.

Rajee Narayan, awarded the Raj Kala Puraskar Anand by the Maharashtra Govt. in the field of dance for the year 1997, is a talented lady with real depth of knowledge in the field of Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam. Right knowledge, right thinking and right action are the ingredients of her success in the rough and tough life dancers face. Courageous and persevering, she inspires practicality and self confidence amongst those whom she meets.

Born on August 19, 1931 at Madras as the 11th and youngest child of Srirangam S Narayana Iyer and Gangammal of Thiruvayur, Rajee was brought up by her sister. A family tale has it that Rajee's mother was so fed up of bearing so many children that when Rajee was born, she left the 10-day old infant at the hospital telling the gynaecologist to bring her up and went home alone. After nearly a week, Rajee's eldest sister, Neela Subrahmanyam was petrified when she discovered that the baby had been abandoned. She promptly went to the hospital and retrieved the infant.

Rajee's eldest sister groomed her in her dance school Nataraja Natya Niketan at Chennai. She got her higher grade diploma in Carnatic Music from the Govt of Madras and advanced training from Sangit Vidwan Thuraiyur M Rajagopala Sarma. She underwent training in Bharatanatyam from K Lalita of Saraswati Gana Nilayam, Madras for a decade.

Rajee's career as a perfoming artist actually started at the tender age of three, when she played the key role of 'Bala Bhaktan' in a movie. This was followed by two other film roles in the lead.

Rajee was married in 1950 to Narayan who was working in the Electricity Board at Madurai. She was blessed with a son; but unfortunately soon after the birth of their son Narayan died of cancer. For the young bride it was a great blow as she had hardly got over her shyness to enjoy the first blooming of romance in the old fashioned marriage.

She migrated to Mumbai in 1965 and set up the school Nritya Geethanjali teaching Carnatic music and Bharat Natyam. Rajee had conducted over 200 Arangetams in Bharat Natyam and six in Carnatic music over three decades!

She learnt light Hindustani music especially Bhajans and Abhangs. She also familiarised herself with Western classical dancing from a German lady. She has also regularly broadcast Carnatic music compositions over A.I.R. for nearly three decades.

Rajee has been imparting training in Nattuvangam for the past 20 years. Many of her students have become allrounders and are teaching in India and abroad.

An external examiner at Nalanda Nrityakala Mahavidyalaya for several years, she is a member of the Board of Studies at the University of Mumbai. She is also the external examiner at the M S University, Baroda.

She not only composes music for her dance songs but is also an accomplished lyricist. She has written and published two books: Nritya Geeta Mala and Natya Shastra Mala.

Rajee has choreographed
• Tinmayil Kuravanji
• Azhagar Kuravanji
• Parijalam
• Vallimaalai Kuravanji
• Sivaleela
• Krishnaleela
• Srikrishnamayam Jagat
• Mahakavi Bharati
• Timmungan Thiruvula

After intensive research Rajee presented Soundarya-lahari, Uttukadu Gamammtam, Bharatiya songs, Kolatta Jothari, Kummi and Haridarsa Nrityam (in Kannada language) in Bharatanatyam form. Mumbai Doordarshan has telecast many of her programmes.

Rajee trained mentally and physically handicapped children specially in a ballet called Sankara. Her choreography and music for the Nuclear Board of India's Documentary Film "Atom for peace" occupies pride of place. This lady seems to be born with the exclusive blessings of Lord Nataraja!

'Kalavani', 'Natya Nipuni', 'Natya Tilakam', 'Natanakala Bhushanam', 'Shrestrakala Acharya' are some titles conferred on Rajee Narayan.

Even at 66 Rajee holds the audience spellbound when she sings on stage. Her powerful voice is very melodious. In one of her concerts when she rendered the song: "Naaradamuni Vedalina", her rendering of the phrase - "Naaraayana Naamamulam Paaraayana Monainchuchu" -- was so pleasing and divine with 'Bhaki Rasa' oozing that it transported the listeners really into the higher realms of life!

M. Vasantalakshmi

Rajee Narayan conducts class - 1975