Renowned Bharatanatyam guru Hemamalini Arni will best be remembered for her lifelong dedication to dance and creative ballet productions in Hyderabad. As a child, Hemamalini was fortunate to have been initiated into dance by well-known gurus like Ramgopal, Kannappa Pillai, Ramaiah Pillai, Balasaraswathi and Mylapore Gowriamma. Her parents also trained her in Carnatic music under greats such as Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer, Musiri Subramania Iyer and Mayavaram Krishna Iyer.
Hemamalini choreographed many dance ballets like Nalina Haara based on the poems of Sarojini Naidu, Navagrahas, Akka, Priye Priye, Gita Govinda, Remembering Meera and The Porous Earth.
Recalling the time spent with her guru, senior disciple Kiranmayee says, “I started learning from Hemamalini Arni in 1996 when I was six-year-old. She would personally teach us and ran an informal dance centre at her beautiful residence for about 50 years. She believed in bringing out the best in every student, taking individual care and interest in each one. Based on all parameters, she would decide which student would be best suited for a particular role in any ballet. She never believed in producing dance students in large numbers and would select them by word of mouth.”
Another senior student Neha Khaitan says, “My teacher always spotted the strengths of a student. She would see their determination level and encourage them to achieve perfection.”
Flautist Ravi Kiran, who composed music for most of Hemamalini Arni’s dance ballets, remembers her for her meticulousness. “She would plan for a ballet production a year in advance. She had a wonderful imagination and creative instincts. She once choreographed a dance production titled Deliverance based on Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, Debatar Gras. She once again created a big production with a solo dancer wherein student Meena Ramnath did all the roles. I also remember an interesting ballet titled Winter of Spring, based on Greek mythology which had steps of Zorba dance and music of Bul Bul Tarang (a musical instrument) and the guitar,” recalls Ravi Kiran.