The Academy had given her name as Kamala Lakshminarayan, which is not what most of her fans would be familiar with. If only we had printed Kumari Kamala… The turnout was disappointing for such a legend and when Dr Pappu read out her profile before she walked on to stage, I was reflecting on what a legend we were privileged to have in our midst. She has in her time, performed before Nehru, danced and acted in films and above all, along with Balasaraswathi and Rukmini Devi, done so much for making Bharata Natyam popular. The Music Academy in a way owes its existence to her, for her performances brought in the money which enabled the institution to build a place of its own.

Kamala came on to stage dressed in traditional dance costume. The body has aged and the voice a tremor but the eyes retain the old sparkle. And when she demonstrated the moves taught by Vazhuvur Ramiah Pillai, we could see that all the old fluidity was intact. She showed how he taught her abhinaya for Tyagaraja’s Sadinchene in Arabhi. It was wonderful.

Then came the anticlimax. She decided to field two of her students from the US to perform two tillanas. This took away 40 minutes from a 60 minute lec dem. And as for their dancing… less said the better. Where was all that she said – subtle expression, fluidity in movement of the arms and power in the legs? All of which she claimed were the hallmarks of Ramiah Pillai?

Why did she do this? Even if she had sat down and explained what she had learnt, we would have come away satisfied. In the end, I felt let down.