Utthara Unni is on cloud nine. She has just received the Gopikrishna National Award for Bharatanatyam, one of the popular recognitions for a dancer in India, at a dance festival held in Chhattisgarh. “It was an all-India competition. There were 3,000 competitors. I was one among the 15 who had been selected by the organisers for their contributions to dance. It was quite a happy moment,” says the dancer-cum-actor.
Although she is an actor, Utthara is popular for her dance prowess. However, she was not so passionate about dance before. “As a kid, I was not very keen though my mother wanted me to be a dancer. When I was born, she did a thulabharam using the bells of chilanka (anklet). Her love for dance motivated her to christen me Utthara, which is the name of a dancer in the Mahabharata,” smiles she, adding, “Her happiness and excitement watching me dance make me go forward.”
Then, what did Utthara want to become, as a kid? “I dreamt of becoming a singer those days. I had stage fright then. When we sing, we don’t have to use the stage much. The attention will be on voice. That was the reason behind my love for music,” she chuckles. Her interest in music faded with time and shifted to modelling and movies during her teen days. And, life just flowed. “I got closer to dance during my college days in Chennai, a place where classical dance is hailed. Those days provided me with a new perspective of Bharatanatyam and I started learning again. I went to the dance festivals, which enriched me with a different kind of experience. My passion for dance grew, which ultimately led me to pursue a graduation in Bharatanatyam.”
Utthara is now travelling around, taking part in dance fests. According to her, wherever we go, it is easy to recognise the crowd that loves dance. “I had the opportunity to perform Bharatanatyam in Odisha, where it is not so common. However, the crowd enjoyed it and appreciated my performance, despite the communication barriers between us,” says Utthara, who runs a dance school in Mumbai. “I love teaching, love being in the world of children and forget everything else while I am teaching.” She is also exploring her directorial side and wants to carry dancing, acting and direction simultaneously....