Renowned recipient of first ever Keralanadanam Award from Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy, Professor Lekha Thankachy is a multifaceted personality who has contributed immensely to the establishment of Keralanadanam. Prof. Lekha is at the helm of not only keeping one of the India’s cultural legacies alive but also in ensuring that it is accessible to all. A classical dancer at par with the best, Prof. Lekha continues to inspire and make meaningful changes in her art for the future generations.
Professor S. Lekha Thankachy is well-known as an accomplished artist who graduated to become a respected dance teacher to many. She retired as the Head of the Dance Department, Sree Swathi Thirunal Government Music College, Thiruvananthapuram.
Prof. Lekha was born on 10th September 1952 to Mr. P.K. Purushothaman and Ms. K. Sharada, both hailing from Alappuzha. Her mother was a well-known music teacher. She presently resides in Haripad in Alappuzha district of Kerala.
Artist and Cadet
Her mother’s affinity to dance and music led to the early induction of Lekha to the nuances of dance. She started learning dance at the tender age of seven under the guidance of Mr. Ambalapuzha Krishnan Kutty Ashan, a dance teacher of repute. This was in the late 1950s and by early 1960s, she was participating in state school art competitions and winning laurels. Along with dance, she also excelled in theatre and won acting awards in drama competitions. Prof. Lekha’s talent didn’t stop there; she also received the Best Cadet award after undergoing training at the National Cadet Corps.
Art Student and Budding Performer
Prof. Lekha decided to pursue her higher education in Fine Arts and joined the Nadanabhooshanam Diploma Course in Swathi Thirunal Music College, Thiruvananthapuram. The course was designed to give specialist training in Keralanadanam (Traditional Kerala Acting). Here she became the first disciple of Dr. Guru Gopinath, the foremost exponent of Keralanadanam. Under the guidance of Dr. Gopinath and other well-known expert teachers, she trained to become an expert in Keralanadanam.
During this time in Thiruvananthapuram, she performed in front of many packed audiences comprising of art aficionados including the members of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore. She made her Arangettam (formal debut) playing the lead role of Usha in the dance drama Ushanirudhan directed by Mr. Thripunithura P.K. Vijayabhanu.
Prof. Lekha’s performances were widely appreciated and there were many requests for repeat performances. Mr. Vayalar Ramavarma, the famous Malayalam poet and lyricist, was in the audience once and had showered his blessings on her. She graduated in the Nadanabhooshanam course with first rank in 1970.
She never rested on her laurels and continued to pursue learning more arts and skills even as she maintained a hectic schedule of teaching and performing and balancing this with her personal life. She got trained in the martial art form of Kalaripayattu and use of the Urumi (weapon).
She pursued higher studies and further training in Bharathanatyam and completed a certificate course in Musicology. She attended refresher courses in Music and graduated with a degree in Performing Arts from Kerala University in 2005.
Accomplished Performer and Teacher
Immediately on graduating, Prof. Lekha joined as Dance Teacher at St. Marys Girls High School in Cherthala in Alappuzha district. This was the start of a long and illustrious career as a Fine Arts faculty and trainer of repute. She continued to perform on many stages during this time. These included dance programmes and dance drama shows.
Post marriage, she started Sudarsana Ballet Troupe in Haripad and started teaching and performing with the students of the troupe. They presented many dance and drama programmes on various stages.
She was appointed as Faculty in the Department of Dance at Sree Swathi Thirunal Music College, Thiruvananthapuram in 1978. She renewed her association with the place by being fully immersed in teaching, performing and pursuing higher education. She got the opportunity to perform in various private and public functions during this time. She also mentored a legion of students to learn and become accomplished performers themselves and directed them to perform on various stages.
She became the Head of the Department of Dance in 1998. She played key roles in the college getting affiliated to the Kerala University and in preparing syllabus and getting approvals for courses in Keralanadanam with Bharathanatyam at graduate and postgraduate levels.
She retired from her official teaching career in 2008 after 30 fulfilling years of service. However, to this day, she continues to teach and perform and keep the flame burning to be carried forward by future generations.
Spreading the Art
Prof. Lekha also took an active interest in maintaining and furthering the reach and quality of fine arts education. She played a vital part in preparing a comprehensive syllabus for dance education in schools.
She is a life member of the Arts and Cultural Movement of India and the Guru Gopinath Trust. She was instrumental, as a member of the trust, in getting Keralanadanam as a competition item in the Kerala Schools Youth Festival.
She has been interviewed many times on television for her views as an expert in the field. She has attended and spoken in many seminars. She has been the member of many boards and committees set up by governments and other institutions to further the education and performance of fine arts.
Awards and Accolades
Prof. Lekha has won many awards and accolades in her illustrious career, both for excellence in her performances and for contributing to the advancement of fine arts educations. She has been felicitated by the renowned dance r, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam (after a performance in Chennai), members of the erstwhile royal families, other celebrity artists and people of eminence.
The awards she has won include the Natyajyothi Award and Keralanadanam Award.
She is married to Mr. P. Rajmohan, a businessman. The couple have a son. They are currently residing in Haripad with their son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.