Mrs.Gopika Varma is a very popular exponent of Mohiniyattam and is the first Mohiniyattam dancer to receive ‘Yuva Kala Bharathi’ award by Bharat Kalachar in 2001. As a professional performer and teacher, she received various awards. It was her maternal grand mother Vanaja Nair who initiated her to learn Mohiniyattam. The anicient Travancore Royal family has been famed down the age for its patronage of the fine arts. Gopika Varma is married into the family, to Prince Pooruruttathi Thirunal Marthanda Varma, descendent of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. Gopika started learning Mohiniyattam at the age of 10 from Smt.Girija and Smt.Chandrika Kurup, both senior students of Smt.Kalyani Kuttyamma. Later she has specialized in the art form under the able guidance of Smt. Kalyani Kuttyamma herself and her daughter, Smt.Sreedevi Rajan. She was also fortunate to learn Abhinaya, which is the quintessence of Mohiniyattam, from Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair, the doyen of Kathakali. She has gleaned a wealth of knowledge and professional training in the “Sopana” style of performance from Kavalam Narayana Paniker, a veteran in Indian theatrics. Gopika has performed extensively at various art festivals, sabhas and temples all over India and she has won laurels from abroad when ICCR chose her to represent India. Her Mohiniyattam is marked by extreme grace and fluidity of movement, transmitting radiance through movements and expressions that at times sigh with nostalgia, purity and sanctity, while being blessed with geometrical precision and technical finesse.Gopika is very lively in her Nritta-Nrithya elements of Mohiniyattam, and her eyes are very eloquent in communicating the message of abhinaya. Presently, Gopika is running a Mohiniyattam school named “Dasyam” at Adyar, Chennai. In her Guru, Smt. Kalyani Kuttyamma’s words, “Like the ambrosia filled in a golden pot, Gopika, trained in ‘Dashavathara’, and the very element in which she underwent training, excels each other…” She is also recipient of ‘Kaladarpanam Award’ (2003); ‘Outstanding Performance Award’ by the House of Commons – London (2003) and the prestigious ‘Kalaimamani Award’ (Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram) in 2004 from Govt.of Tamilnadu A member of the Royal Family of the erstwhile State of Travancore, she is a very down-to-earth person and believes she has to give something back to society. ‘Her entry into designing, was more out of an interest to do something constructive and spend her time more meaningful, when she had to discontinue with dancing due to ill health. Encouraged by family and friends, she started own textile unit, aptly called Gopika’s Royal Touch’ about 10 years ago, inside the vast premises of Ramalayam, the family’s palace in Chennai. To climb from one step to another is very difficult; it needs a lot of hard work and perseverance, says Gopika Varma with a smile that exudes confidence and satisfaction.
‘Ramalayam’, Travancore Palace,
No.1, L.B. Road, Adyar, Chennai.