She’s the dance wizard from the South, who makes stalwarts like Kamlahasan, Rajnikant, Aishwarya Rai, and even Prabhu Deva dance to her tunes. Lata Khubchandani finds out more about Brinda Master who was conferred with the National Award for Best Choreography in 1999
Q: What kind of a student were you in school and college?
A: I was not a brilliant student. Studies were the last in my list of priorities. I was more interested in co-curricular activities like dance and drama. I did schooling up to 12th, which I consider to be a great achievement in itself.
Q: And your favourite subjects?
A: There were no favourite subjects because school was anathema to me. What came closest as a favourite subject was English.
Q: Which teacher do you remember most and why?
A: There was a teacher in our school called Valsala. She was very affectionate and considerate towards me. She is one teacher I still remember.
Q: When did you decide that dance was what you wanted to do?
A: My family is strongly connected to dance. My sister Girija and her husband Raghuram Master are both reputed choreographers. As a child, I would see dance rehearsals happening at home. So my interest goes back to my childhood.
Q: How did you go about it?
A: My sister Girija was a member of a dance troupe run by the famous actress Venniradai Nirmala. I became a member of the troupe. I was also fortunate to learn dance formally under the tutelage of Narasimha Chary and Vasanthalakshmi of Kalakshetra.
Q: How did you get your first break?
A: I was in class 12 when my sister Kala had an accident. She had then been assisting Raghuram Master, Girija’s husband. So Girija asked me to accompany Raghuram for a shoot, as an assistant. I assisted him in over 100 films before I got an opportunity to be an independent choreographer in Tamil film Nandavana Theru. My second film was Iruvar with Mani Ratnam - Aishwarya Rai’s debut film - which was the stepping stone to my career as a choreographer.
Q: What’s your advice to budding choreographers?
A: I make a distinction between choreography and dance. Choreography is the art of directing a sequence according to the vision of the director and the requirements of the story. Choreographers - in cinema, stage, or TV shows - need to be disciplined, ready to imbibe new styles, and be aware of what is happening around them. Dance is a vast ocean; something better will always come up that you need to learn. Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep that lesson always in your mind.
Q: What is better, being in a profession one likes or a profession that pays better?
A: To be in a profession that one likes, of course.
Q: What did you do with your first pay check?
A: My first paycheck was for a play I did with Venniradai Nirmala’s troupe when I was 12 years old. I was paid Rs. 150. I gave the money to my mother.
Q: Joys of your profession?
A: Live my dream of becoming a dancer and choreographer. Meet lots of interesting and talented people and travel all around the world.
Q: Do you have to be a born dancer or can you learn?
A: A born dancer may squander the chance. But an average person who has the will and discipline can become a great dancer.