22 December, 2004
He still remembered those words-“Your turn is next Nattu. Are you ready to do it?”. The director asked smilingly, portraying a father like smile.
Natraja or Nattu was always ready to do it. He was the most elite student of the dance academy. Being in the academy for 6 months straight, he had won many hearts with his pure dance styles. He had mastered everything from the pointed toes while doing contemporary, the rhythmic shifts of limbs during locking and poppings, the fast, subtle movements and minute expressions involved in Bharatnatyam to the ultra modern slow motion dance, he could do it all. Already regarded as a child prodigy, this 4’7” guy could do what a team of best talented dancers from all over the world couldn't.
The judges at the show bathed him with compliments every time he finished dancing. One of them called him “A pure fountain of elegance”, while the hit Bollywood actress called him “irresistibly cute, ultimate heart-throb and her dream guy” and the dance guru who bowed before him and did a hats-off with his favorite one-lined compliment.
He was special and he knew it. With such great talents nothing or no one could stand in his way of becoming a great dancer-or maybe with the great looks he had he could also become a dashing actor. A dancing sensation just at this tender age paved his way of a shining amazing future. He was all over the social media, the TV and the newspapers.
But not everybody wished the same for him. Not the two-faced director who reaped great benefits out of his brilliance. Not the secretary who ran behind the director and showed him important documents stating the TRPs. And then with a fox-like smile both entered a nearby chamber and plotted the scripts of the hit “reality show”.
He felt strange how could someone fake reality. How could someone with no talents of his own direct the future of such talented young kids? But he didn’t interfere with the proceedings, not as long as he was kept away from this malicious melodrama. Often the parents were also dragged into this. Everything was directed from the tears in their eyes, to the dispute which occurred between the judges.
He even wondered whether these parents were for real-maybe he couldn't understand since he was an orphan. Call it his own hatred for his parents who left him on the streets beside the academy, or his logical mind which influenced him to believe that often the sordid stories told on the show by parents were all fake and pseudo.
But all this really never mattered, when he was dancing he was best in the business. Maybe that’s why they give him the name- Natraja, after the great god of dance.
And today all of that would come to an end. Today was the much awaited dance finale. The show which had caught the eyes and minds of people across religion, generation and even countries was to drop its curtains today. After today there would be no show, but the name and fame of Natraja shall.
He sat in the waiting arena all painted in gold, and make-upped with shiny sparkles and the glossy silky satins. But today he felt different, maybe nervous. Nervous? Wait a minute he never knew this word. Dancing was his life; it was the air he breathed. How could someone get nervous while breathing? Something was definitely not right or maybe it was his fidgety, crafty mind making up situations and playing with his agitated intestines. He brushed aside these thoughts and stood up for his name was already called up amidst huge cheers and applauds. The last dance of this finale had to be his. All night the audience had waited for this time to come. And he was finally there on the stage, shining like the brightest of the stars. All dazzling, they waited for the music to start. The crew tried their very best to manage the crowd but felt like sheep herders sent to manage nasty bulls.
The TRPs had now started to climb the ladders as the mercury which pushes itself within a thermometer. The director and his secretary stood smilingly, already counting cashes in terms of TRPs.
All the lights in the stadium dimmed as the focus shifted to the child prodigy standing on the stage. With eyes closed and arms stretched and then brought to the ground, he did a final guru-namaskaram to his late father like guru, who had first found him lying at the doorsteps of the academy and promised to make him a dancing prodigy.
The feeling came again within the namaskaram as he opened his eyes shakily. Something was not right, stop this please- his inner soul shouted. But outside he was firm and confident like a rising wave which knows it shall fall. The show must go on.
As the music started so did his brilliance. The audience watched engagingly as if cast in a spell by this sorcerer. He was the definite winner, the winner of hearts and this show likewise. His rubber-like flexible body did the stunts and the intricate details with equal perfection. The storm within nattu, had now receded as if bowing down to a superior power. The power of the lord of dance -the great dancing Shiva or Natraja himself.
Within the dance, a loop was lowered on the stage with a shining white ribbon tied above. Natraja climbed on it smoothly, and performed his routine with equal perfection. The loop was hoisted along with him, steadily but slowly natraja rose above all as the world bowed to his brilliance. Caring mothers looked away from the screens as little children became ecstatic at seeing the marvel. A guy dancing at 60 feet from the ground was enough to give the audience jitters, and reasonably enough to make them feel that their money was utilized.
But just when he was about to reach the topmost point, something happened. The nut tied to the loop loosened and fell down, and now it was his and the loop’s turn to go down. Natraja looked above as if saying a final goodbye to the world and its absurd ways. “Baba I am coming”- he said as he fell down at 9.8 m/s2. The audience which was seeing all this in rapt attention left their seats in a dismay at the sudden change of events.
As Natraja came down, the TRPs shot to an all time high- more than a couple of award functions, quiz shows, and live cricket, and soccer matches put together. The video garnered around lakhs of viewers in just few moments on the Youtube. The mass media was even overflowing with sympathetic wishes and prayers.
As the world mourned for this prodigy, two people were still happy. Their plan had succeeded- Natraja their final weapon was fired at the right time. Their plans had been laid since the day they saw him, they made him an overnight sensation and harvested out the benefits at the ripe time. Everything went by as planned.
A group of young kids, rushed into the class. As they wore their ghungroos, and fastened the clips their teacher said in a firm, dominating voice- “C’mon kids settle down. We shall begin with the customary bharatnatyam first." His feet were lifelessly lying on the wheelchair’s foot rest. His lower body was paralyzed but his zeal for dancing wasn't. As he taught the students varying dance mudras wearing the ghungroos in his hand and looking carefully at each student, he relived the glory of Natraja.
As soon as the class got over, a guy in NDC uniforms appeared with sheets of documents. The teacher gave it a look, made some corrections and strolled back into the NDC office on his wheelchair.
A billboard nearby read “NDC: NATRAJA DANCE CLUB”.