Interview with Purnima Menon – From Kathakali Dancer to Senior VP & CMO of CSS Crop Pvt Ltd.

Purnima Menon is a Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer (Global) CSS Corp with Seventeen years in marketing and corporate communications in the telecom and IT sector. She discovered her love for beautiful dance form Kathakali at an early age, from holding a higher position in the corporate sector to a professional dancer Purnima shares how she would like to open a Kathakali school in Bangalore that concentrates on this fading art-form with .

Purnima[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-red” ]Q. [/highlight] Tell us something about how you became a Kathakali exponent?

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-green” ]A. [/highlight]It was my father who wanted me to learn Kerala arts and encouraged me to start learning Kathakali. So I started my education at the tender age of 10 in New Delhi. The International Center for Kathakali (ICK) was already established and my then guru Shri Sadanam Balakrishnan started coming home for the lessons. The initial roles that I got were more female oriented and I got to learn a lot by observing my senior colleagues and other gurus at the center. Then slowly I started to ask for male roles as that seemed more interesting to me. In kathakali there are very few strong female oriented stories, the more complex and rigorous roles are male roles.

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-red” ]Q. [/highlight] You are a very successful corporate professional. How do you balance your love for dance and your career?

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-green” ]A. [/highlight]If you love what you do, then the balancing act comes naturally. I love my job and my team allows me the flexibility to prepare for kathakali roles as and when they come. I never miss any opportunity to don a role however big or small. Every preparation for a role makes me so positive and charged up that it naturally reflects in my career and motivates me to do my best at work.

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-red” ]Q. [/highlight] Kathakali is performed mainly by men. How did you decide to enter this largely male-dominated dance form?

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-green” ]A. [/highlight] I would have to credit my father and my guruji who never once let me feel that it was beyond me. It is true that until recently the art form had few women professionals because it is a very demanding art form. Also when Kathakali was conceived many centuries ago, it was created with men in mind as at that time no women would have donned a role. Like all art forms, Kathakali is evolving and today the influx of women artistes in Kerala has ensured that this art form will find a lot of takers in women.

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-red” ]Q. [/highlight] What do you think of the dance forms in India? How do we Indians look at it as a profession?

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-green” ]A. [/highlight] I think it is lamentable that classical artforms today anywhere around the world are left in the hands of so few. In Kerala itself this artform finds acceptance only amongst Kathakali students or connoisseurs. It is still not a widely acceptable profession as it is not sometimes seen as “remunerative” enough for a full time profession. We are still a long way off before dance and other art forms become mass accepted as professions and are governed by the same laws that a corporate or professional entities in India are treated.

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-red” ]Q. [/highlight] What are your future plans?

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-green” ]A. [/highlight] Definitely plan to continue my studies and association with this fantastic art form. I would like to open a school in Bangalore that concentrates on this artform if I can.

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-red” ]Q. [/highlight] Your advice to youngsters who wish to take up dance as a profession; especially Kathakali and especially for women.

[highlight highlightColor=”highlight-green” ]A. [/highlight] Follow your dream. Be prepared to be fascinated for life!

What do you think?

Written by Smita Diwan

Smita Diwan is a Media & Communication evangelist with 15+ years of steady growth. She has served across diverse verticals of Broadcast Journalism, Corporate Communications, Digital Media and Public Relations. A fitness enthusiast, Smita devotes her ‘rare’ free-time to yoga and meditation. As she strongly believes that the right balance is the key to steady growth.

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