The guiding light of Indian dance
Mrinalini Sarabhai was one of the leading lights of the Indian dance scene for a long time and lived till her ripe old age.
I remember her as someone who was always dressed very beautifully. She would wear beautiful saris, jewellery, kajal, a nose stud and had a very striking persona.
She was a Malayali and belonged to a very good family. Her father was a barrister and her mother Ammu Swaminathan, I remember, was a very famous social worker who was actively involved in the independence struggle.
Mrinalini ji learnt Bharatanatyam along with other dance forms and partnered with the famous dancer Ram Gopal.
Later, she met Vikram Sarabhai, a scientist who belonged to a Gujarati family and married him.
She came to live in Ahmedabad in those early years when the city primarily indulged in Gujarati culture but she was able to instil interest in Bharatanatyam and Kathakali among the people there, especially because she started an institution. Around that time, she partnered with Chathunni Panicker, a wonderful Kathakali dancer, and created some dance ballads such as Manushya… I forget the other names because they were performed so long ago and I had seen them in my teenage.
She established Bharatanaytam and Kathakali and classical dance in Ahmedabad and travelled with her group abroad and got recognised internationally.
All the while her husband Viram Sarabhai, who became a great scientist, supported her to the hilt.
And not just dance, I also remember that she had a lot of interest in handicraft and handlooms and was associated with Gurjari (Gujarat State Handicrafts Emporium). She was a multi-faceted personality and my condolences to the family. I feel her memory should always be celebrated.
(As told to Torsha Sen) (Sonal Mansingh is an eminent Indian classical dancer and a Padma Vibhushan awardee)