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Everything You Need to Know about the Performers in the Padma Awardees' Index of 2021

The Padma Awards, which are known as the most prestigious and highest civilian honours conferred by the government of India, were finally awarded on October 8th and 9th 2021 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Ram Nath Kovind.

The ceremony was supposed to be held in 2020 but was delayed in 2021 owing to the worldwide coronavirus crisis and subsequent lockdown. 

Out of the 119 recipients, 25 awardees belong/formerly belonged to the Performative Arts Industry. From Sattriya Folk Dancers to Global Theatre and Screen Direction, the Padma Awards recognized the immeasurable contribution of a veritable array of humongously talented Performers across the length and breadth of the globe. 

Here are some interesting facts about the Artists who have been conferred with the Padma Awards in 2021:

  1. 1. SP Balasubrahmanyam:

S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, who was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, was not just a prominent playback actor and singer in the South Indian Film Industry but was an extremely revered artist in Hindi cinema too. After his debut in 1966, he went on to sing over 40,000 songs in as many as 16 languages. Balasubrahmanyam has won six National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer for his works in four different languages – Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Hindi; 25 Andhra Pradesh state Nandi Awards for his work in Telugu cinema; and numerous other state awards from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. His Bollywood hits like ‘Didi Tera Devar Deewana’ and ‘Saathiya Ye Tune Kya Kiya’ remain in the collective consciousness as legendary masterpieces till today. 

Unfortunately, this epic performer left this world for the heavenly abode after being hospitalized for over a month, battling COVID-19.   

  1. 2. Krishnan Nair Shantakumari Chithra

The voice of the female lead in the legendary song, ‘Ye Haseen Wadiyan Ye Khula Aasmaan’, also known as the nightingale of South India, Krishnan Nair Shantakumari Chithra, better known as K.S. Chithra, has recorded over 25,000 songs over a career spanning 24 years. She is also the only singer from India who was honored by the Government of China at Qinghai International Music and Water Festival in 2009. Chithra has also been awarded the National Excellence Award 2001 by Limca Book of Records

  1. 3. Gulfam Ahmad Khan

Gulfam Ahmed Khan, who was awarded the title of Padma Shri recently, is an Indian Rabab and Sarod player. Through his unparalleled musical gift, he has become the ambassador of intercultural relations between India and Afghanistan. He is enormously celebrated and respected in Afghanistan and has many Afghan nationals under his tutelage. 

His journey as a music teacher in Afghanistan began when he impressed the locals there with his skill on the Rabab, while visiting his daughter and son-in-law in Afghanistan. 

Soon his fame reached the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, where senior officials took no time in inviting him to start classes teaching the instrument, right there at the embassy. 

Today, Gulfam Ahmed Khan has earned the title of Ustad in Afghanistan.  

  1. 4. Rama Swamy Annavarapu 

Oldest among all the Padma awardees, the internationally acclaimed violin maestro Ramaswamy has been providing completely free violin training for nearly 6 decades. Born on March 23, 1926, Annavarapu learned Carnatic music under Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu.

Annavarapu is a classical Carnatic violin maestro. He accompanied Carnatic musicians such as Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Pantulu, M Balamuralikrishna, Arayakudi Ramanuja Iyyengar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar. He invented new ragas and talams such as Vandana Ragam, Sri Durga Ragam, Tinetradi Tala and Vedadi Tala'. 

Rama Swamy is an ardent advocate of introducing Indian ancient and classical arts in every school and music college in every district in order to save our ancient heritage from dying out. 

  1. 5. Subbu Arumugam

Subbu Arumugam is an internationally acclaimed Villu Paatu performer- Villu Paatu    or Villadichampaatu, is an ancient form of musical story-telling, originating from the Southern Indian states. Arumugam has dedicated nearly 70 years of his life to the revival of this dying art. 

He started writing for noted actor-comedian NS Krishnan, who helped him generate interest in this art form. 

  1. 6. Radhe Shyam Barle

Notable Panthi Folk Dancer Dr. Radheshyam Barle, was born on October 9, 1966, in Khola village of Patan tehsil of Durg district. Along with studying MBBS, he also holds a diploma in folk music from Indira Kala Sangeet University. 

Dr. Radhe Shyam has been instrumental in the proliferation of Panthi folk dance from Chhattisgarh for more than 35 years.

  1. 7. Peter Brook

Veteran British Theatre and Film Director Peter Brook, who adapted the Indian epic "Mahabharata" into a stage play. He has been instrumental in bringing the international glory this ancient Indian masterpiece deserves. 

8. Gopiram Bargayan Burabhokot

Veteran Assamese folk musician from Majuli, Shri Gopiram Bargayan Burabhakat, was conferred with Padma Shri in 2021. He has been known for grooming the Sattriya traditional music for over seven decades.

9. Wayan Dibia

Wayan Dibia is Bali's most influential Kecak Dancer and Scholar. Kecak is a traditional Indonesian art form depicting chapters of the Ramanayana. 

This tradition has been around since the 1930s. It is a form that developed from a traditional trance dance called “Sanghyang” that involves mediums who, when they have entered a trance, are guided by villagers around the village to offer a blessing. To accompany that, they perform Kecak, a form of focal chanting.

10. Parshuram Vishram Gangavane

Parshuram is a folk artist from Sindhudurg, Maharashtra. He was awarded the Padma Shri for his instrumental work in preserving the 500-year-old art of Chitrakathi storytelling. Chitrakathi is that artform in which stories are narrated with the help of visual aids. 

Parshuram belongs to the Thakar tribe, a tribe known for practicing the ancient art of Chitrakathi for centuries. In fact, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj used to employ them as spies, because they were wandering minstrels. Chhatrapati Shivaji banked on the fact that these Chitrakathi artists would be going from door to door after the performance to play the veena and collect bakshish (like rice, cashew nuts, and kokam), which would allow them to extract political information. The ruler fondly called the group “Butterflies of the Forest”, because they would flit from one part of the forest to the other.

11. Purnamasi Jani

Purnamasi Jani, fondly known as Tadisaru Bai in the region, is a Tribal Singer and Social Activist from Kandhamal, Odisha. She has sung thousands of songs over 6 decades promoting social causes in Odia, Kui, and Sanskrit. 

Born in Charipada village under Khajuripada block of Kandhamal district, Purnamasi was married at a young age. Over the span of her married life, she gave birth to six children, none of whom survived. Stricken by grief, she sought solace in meditation and devotion. Soon, she accompanied some saints to Tadisaru hill near her village for doing 'Tapasya’. Years later when she returned to her village, people regarded her as a saint and began calling her Tadisaru Bai. She then started singing devotional songs and writing poems.


12. Manjamma Jogati: 

Manmjamma Jogati is a Folk Dancer of Jogamma heritage and the first transwoman President of Karnataka Janapada Academy. Before heading the state’s top institution for folk arts, Manjamma or Manjunath Shetty, has faced many hardships in her personal life, all because she was born as a boy, but started identifying as a woman. Battling family shame, abuse and abandonment, mental trauma, and begging on the streets for food, she finally found Jogati Nritya (a folk performance of the Jogappas, a transgender community who believe themselves married to the goddess Yellamma.) Later, she became friends with Kaalavva, a folk artiste from Hagaribommanahalli. That is when she found her confidence, assertion, and finally, herself. 

13. Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri

Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri is a senior Malayali Lyricist, Poet, Music Director, Actor, Singer, Screenwriter, Music Therapist, and Performer of Carnatic Music from Kozhikode who has written over 1500 songs. Apart from being a successful film Music Lyricist, he also runs a music school and promotes music for therapeutic purposes. Namboodiri’s heartfelt prose has struck a chord with the youth of Kerala and Malayalam-speaking communities. 

14. Mahesh Kanodia, Naresh Kanodia

Mahesh and Naresh Kanodia were Gujarati folk singers from Mehsana who had worked in over 100 movies over 4 decades. There were prominent figures in the Gujarati film industry. Naresh Kanodia was actually, the first dancing star in Gujarati film industry, and was often known as the Amitabh Bachchan of Gujarati Film Industry. 

Both the brothers died within two days of each other. 

15. K Kesavasamy 

K Kesavasamy is a String Puppeteer from Puducherry, who has been performing the art form for the last 4 decades- performances for educational purposes and social messages. 

The retired government school teacher had initially started using puppets as a form of visual aid in the education of his students. Soon thereafter, he started enjoying it so much that he immersed himself completely in the art form. 

16. Lakha Khan

This Manganiyar Folk Singer from Jodhpur, who is a master of Bhajans and Sufi Kalams, is one of the last remaining masters of the Sindhi Sarangi. 

The Manganiyars is a Muslim community, which relies on singing and playing musical instruments in functions for a living. Even though these communities play Hindu devotional songs, they often face religious discrimination. 

17. Ramchandra Manjhi

Ramchandra Manjhi is a 95-year-old Naach performer from Bihar, who has been instrumental in carrying forward the legacy of Grameen Natak for over 8 decades. 

In his 80 years on stage, Manjhi has always strived for democracy in art and entertainment. His first preference in the audience is always the rural community, which have no other forms of accessible entertainment. 

18. Dulal Manki

Dulal Manki is a renowned Assamese Singer from Tinsukia, popularly known as Jhumar Samrat. He belongs to the tea-tribes of Assam, and mainly sings folk songs originating from this particular community. 

19. Rewben Mashangva

Rewben Mashangva, also known as the Father of Naga Folk Blues, was conferred the Padma Shri, for his immense contribution in resurrecting Manipur's Tangkhul Naga musical heritage. 

Born to a carpenter’s family in Ukhrul district, Reuben tried his hand at carpentry. As a young child, he used to carry his finished wooden pieces to the nearby cultural fairs for sale. Even while selling wooden pieces, he would concentrate more on the performers on the stage than on selling wood. Soon after he realized that he would rather become a musician than a carpenter. 

20. KK Ramachandra Pulavar

KK Ramachandra Pulavar is a Shadow Puppeteer (an art known as Tholpavakoothu in Kerala) from Kerala, who has performed in more than 45 countries on Indian culture and mythologies. 

From new puppets and shows to awareness programs on COVID-19 to performances themed on the Panchatantra, The Mahabharatha, and legends of Lord Ayyappa, Mahabali and The Bible (Yesukoothu) have been developed by Pulavar. Shows based on the life of Buddha and Gandhi have also been staged at many venues in India and abroad with narratives in Hindi and English.

21. Kanaka Raju

Kanaka Raju is a Gussadi dancer from Asifabad, and he received the Padma Shri because of his contribution to preserving the dying tribal art form of Gussadi dance by training Adivasi youth for over decades. 

The 80-year-old belongs to the Gond tribe and is a native of Marlawai village in Jainoor Mandal, Asifabad in Telangana. 

The Gusadi dance is performed during the Dandari festival which is celebrated for 20 days (10 days before and 10 days after Deepavali). Artistes wear a headgear known as “Mal Jali” in Gondi language, which is designed with over 10,000 peacock feathers. They also decorate themselves with horns of rams and deer, and cover their bodies with ash, and wear beads on their arms while draping animal skin around them while Gusadi is performed.

22. Bombay Jayashri Ramnath

Bombay Jayashri Ramnath is one of India’s prominent Carnatic vocalists from Tamil Nadu. She is known for her performances nationally and internationally across 35 countries. 

The success of Ramnath’s growth as a singer can be credited to her mother. Seetha Ramnath lost her husband at a very young age and was forced to teach music to kids to earn a living. It was then that she realized that her daughter Jaya, then aged three, who used to expertly pick up the nuances of the Ranjani Varnam from just the other room, was extremely musically gifted. Seetha’s tastes in music were unusually eclectic and she believed in exposing Jayashri to a wide range of musical influences. Whenever she heard a good musician or teacher, she made sure Jayashri had a chance to learn from him or her.

23. Satyaram Reang

Satyaram Reang is a Tribal Hojagiri dancer from Tripura, who has been instrumental in conserving & promoting his native tribe's traditional dance for over 5 decades

Reang, born in 1943, belongs to the Reang tribal community, was born at Dashamipara, a distant tribal village of South Tripura. He started Hojagiri Academy, the only one of its kind in Tripura, on his own land. The veteran artist has been instrumental in promoting Hojagiri dance in the international cultural arena, having represented Tripura and India in the erstwhile Soviet Russia in 1987-88 in a cultural event.

24. Kartar Singh

One of the foremost Gurbani singers today, Kartar Singh is a scholar from Ludhiana who has authored multiple books over his 6 plus decades of work

Singh has been conferred with many prestigious honors for his contribution to music. In 2008, he got a special prize for his music in Ludhiana Sangeet Academy that was conferred by then president Pratibha Patil.  

25. Nidumolu Sumathi

Mridangam Player from Andhra who has been performing for 6 decades now. She is the first female Laya Vinyasam artist. 

In 2003, she became the first female mridangist to become an "A-TOP" grade artist of All India Radio. From a background artist to a headliner, her journey is synonymous to an extraordinary melody, well balanced in sruthi and laya.

She has accompanied artists like M.S.Subbalakshmi, Chittoor Subramaniam Pillai, Voleti Venkateswarlu, Dr. M.Balamurali Krishna, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, M.Chandrasekaran, Emani Sankara Sastri, Chitti Babu, N. Ramani, and U.Srinivas.

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