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A Tribute to Grand Old Man of Dance – Sunil Kothari

The grand old man of dance, whose lifetime contribution to the world of dance, is acclaimed internationally, Dr Sunil Kothari left for his heavenly abode on Sunday morning(27 December) after cardiac arrest at Fortis Hospital in New Delhi, Earlier during the month, he was admitted for Covid, after treatment he was recovering fast and shared the same news with everyone. He was 87 and a bachelor too.

Dr Kothari With Jamshedji Bhabha and Kumudini Lakhia at Tata Theatre, NCPA

The last time I met him was in February this year at the Chowdiah Memorial auditorium in Bangalore, where I was invited to be part of the Abhinava Dance Academy’s silver jubilee celebrations programme, after I met he immediately exclaimed “How lovely to see you”, I was amused at his instant response. Sunil Kothari was considered an encyclopaedia of dance, dance historian and eminent dance critic with decades of writing for several publications. He was also the author of several dance books, exposing the varied facets of classical and folk dancing.

Sunil bhai, that is how he was popularly called by all the dancers, started his career as a lecturer of chartered accountancy at Sydenham College in Mumbai, as he was a chartered accountant. But his heart would always dance as he was fascinated about the complexity and elegance of dance and dancers. In his reviews, he was quite mild in his criticism but he was quite outspoken about maintaining the quality of dance as he rightly believed that the quality of the performance is more important than the quantity. He learnt different dances, particularly the theoretical aspect of dance, hence is among the few dance writers to have written about all the eight types of classical dances. I remember the days when he used to practically move around with a typewriter in his hand, he used to travel to other cities and I must admit he was the most active dance writer I have ever seen, Inspite of his old age and health problems he would be on the move always, today Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Paris or New York. He was a great friend of all the top dancers and would regularly meet them and write about them too.

While reviewing the performance of Yamini Krishnamurti, she was performing the famous Kuchipudi number “Swami Ra Ra”(My Lord Please come), with her large expressive eyes while the performance was on, A Sardarji moved towards the stage and the dancer blatantly said, “I did not call you, am calling my Lord”, this was written by Sunil in one of the leading newspapers. While in Mumbai, Sunil used to write for the Times of India, Femina and several other publications. He was a regular reviewer for the ClassicalClaps as well. He was the head of the dept of dance at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata and was connected to several cultural organisations. He won the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Padma Shri too. His invaluable contribution will always be remembered and cherished. May His Soul Rest In Peace.

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