S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Ram Gopal

20.11.1912 - 12.10.2003
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Bissano Ram Gopal was born in Bangalore on 20th November 1912, to a Burmese mother and Rajput father. His year of birth remains a mystery because when Ram was 60, he joked he was 40 (and looked it too!) and when he died at 90 plus he felt he was only 70! But two or three of his contemporaries like Guru U.S. Krishna Rao and dance partners like Mrinalini Sarabhai and M.K. Saroja are good references to arrive at a precise year of birth which turns out to be 1912. Guru U.S. Krishna Rao knows for a fact that Ram was 40 days older than him and Guru Rao was born on December 31st 1912, so Ram was born on 20th November 1912. When M.K. Saroja was five years old Ram was 24 and she was born in 1931. As he was born on 20th or 'Bees' in Hindi, he was named Bissano, as a term of endearment, by his beautiful Burmese mother from whom he got those chiselled features with high cheek-bones and shapely eyes. His robust Rajput father gave his body the finest of manly "cuts" and rippling muscles. Thus, Nature had itself conspired and inspired forces to sculpt a beautiful body and a beautiful face to go with what he was meant to do— dance!

To say Ram was a born dancer is stating the obvious. There was no dance in his family circle, although Ram was artistic from his childhood. Although his family house— The Torquay Castle— in Benson Town, was a lavish affair with tennis courts and swimming pool, befitting the status of his rich barrister father, Ram spent more time with musicians and artists. His friendship with U.S. Krishna Rao, who once ended up playing the mridanga for Ram when he had to dance impromptu at a tea party hosted by the then Yuvaraja of Mysore, established a lifelong relationship with dance. Ram was lucky to find a royal patron and a loyal friend.   

Ram went through the grind and learnt from two venerable guru-s of Bharatanatyam: Guru Muthukumara Pillai of Kattumannarkoil and Guru Meenakshisundaram Pillai. Bharatanatyam is not the only form he learnt or mastered, as has been erroneously stated in some writings. He learnt Kathakali from Guru Kunju Kurup under Vallathol Narayana Menon's supervision when he set up the Kerala Kalamandalam and he learnt Kathak from Guru Jailal and later Guru Sohanlal. 

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