Famed Kalakshetra dancer C. K. Balagopalan passes away

One of the most celebrated but low-profile dancers who made a name at Kalakshetra, C. K. Balagopalan passed away on Saturday, August 24 in Chennai.

The news shocked his well-wishers and friends because they had seen him at various events recently and he looked good.

Balagopalan was best known for playing the role of Hanuman in the dance drama series on the Indian epic that Kalakshetra's founder Rukmini Devi Arundale produced and which are today, re-dramatised by the Kalakshetra repertory and draw big audiences. Kalakshetra's insiders, veteran dancers and rasikas of old gushed over Balagopalan's Hanuman character everytime the Ramayana series was played out on a stage.

As dancer and guru Indira Kadambi in her tribute wrote: It was in 2001. I took 5 year old Vishnu (son) to watch Choodamani Pradhanam at Kalakshetra. Vishnu was so awestruck by Hanuman enacted by Balagopalan Sir and wanted to meet him after performance. When I took him to green room, Sir had already removed his vesham and Vishnu refused to talk to him saying he is not Hanuman and insisted he wanted to see real Hanuman. Sir tried to act and show him but little Vishnu didn't want itFinally I just took his blessings and came out.'

Balagopalan hailed from Kerala, and was like V. P. Dhananjayan located during a dance talent scouting mission by the  famed guru Chandu Panicker who was at Kalakshetrra in Chennai. Like many other dancers, they studied here and then found a place in Rukmini Devi's productions.

Though his frame was small, his role of Hanuman impacted on the audience and dancers of today haven't forgotten it. But he played other roles too with aplomb.

Kalakshetra was his world and he was wedded to the productions. While people like Dhananjayan moved on work independently, Balagopalan stuck to his campus. He didn't seem to have got invites to dance solo on the concert stage. Also, those were days when earnings were meagre.

Balagopalan was 79; he is survived by wife Leela and children Praneesh and Prithvija. They live in Kottivakkam, Chennai. Phone; 9840116562