Republic Day saw eight eminent personalities from Tamil Nadu being recognised for their distinguished contributions with Padma Awards, India’s highest civilian honours. This year, a total of 132 individuals were chosen across three categories: Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri.
The Padma Vibhushan, awarded for exceptional and distinguished service, will be conferred upon renowned Bharathanatyam exponents and film actor Vyjayanthimala Bali, along with guru Padma Subrahmanyam. The Padma Bhushan, recognising distinguished service of high order, will be posthumously bestowed upon actor-turned-politician Vijayakant for his contributions in the field of art.
Overall, for the year 2024, a total of 132 Padma Awards have been approved by the President of India, including 2 duo cases. These include 5 Padma Vibhushan, 17 Padma Bhushan, and 110 Padma Shri Awards. Notably, the list features 30 women awardees, as well as 8 individuals from the category of Foreigners/NRI/PIO/OCI, and 9 posthumous recipients.
In a distinguished acknowledgment of their exceptional contributions to the realms of film, dance, and culture, veteran actress and Bharatanatyam dancer Vyjayanthimala Bali and acclaimed Bharatanatyam exponent Dr Padma Subrahmanyam have been chosen for the prestigious Padma Vibhushan Awards for the year 2024.
Vyjayanthimala Bali: A Storied Career in Film and Dance
Vyjayanthimala Bali, a celebrated figure in Indian cinema and classical dance, has been a prominent name since the 1950s and 60s. Born on August 13th, 1936, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the 91-year-old artist received her schooling at Sacred Heart Church Park Convent in Chennai. Her illustrious career spans across Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi films, where she left an indelible mark with her versatile acting.
Apart from her cinematic achievements, Vyjayanthimala is a distinguished Bharatanatyam dancer. Remarkably, she performed for the Pope at the tender age of five, foreshadowing the brilliance that defined her artistic journey. The multifaceted artist, who later ventured into politics as a Member of Parliament in both houses, has now been honoured with the prestigious Padma Vibhushan Award, a testament to her enduring impact on Indian arts and culture.
After her marriage to Dr Chamanlal Bali, Vyjayanthimala chose to step back from acting, dedicating herself to her family and son, Suchindra.
Dr Padma Subrahmanyam: A Versatile Maestro in Bharatanatyam
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, born on February 4th, 1943, in Chennai, emerges as a rare gem in the world of Bharatanatyam. A multifaceted personality, she is revered as a flawless dancer, choreographer, music composer, singer, research scholar, teacher, and author. Her father, K. Subramanyam, a renowned director and freedom fighter, and her mother, Smt Meenakshi Subramanyam, a prolific artist, laid the foundation for her artistic journey.
Currently serving as the director of “Nrutyodaya,” a dance school founded by her father in 1942, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam’s impact extends beyond her exceptional performances. Trained by Guru Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai, she conducted her Arangetram in 1956 and went on to captivate global audiences with numerous performances.
As a research scholar, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam holds a doctorate for her research on the oldest dance system. Her thesis on “Karanas in Indian dance and sculpture” emphasises that the 108 Karanas are not merely static poses but dynamic movements. Notably, she played a pivotal role in introducing “Pushpanjali” as a dance piece, performed annually at the Chidambaram Natarajar Temple with the participation of dancers.
Beyond her dance accomplishments, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam designed sculptures depicting the Karanas of Lord Shiva and Parvati, housed in the Nataraja Temple at Satara, Maharashtra.
Posthumous Honour: Padma Bhushan Conferred to Late Actor Vijayakanth
In a poignant recognition of his significant contributions to Tamil cinema and politics, the late film actor and founder of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Vijayakanth, has been posthumously awarded the Padma Bhushan. Vijayakanth, born Narayanan Vijayaraj Alagaraswami on August 25, 1952, passed away on December 28th last year.
Known for his screen name Vijayakanth, he appeared in over 150 films and held the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly from May 2011 to February 2016. Referred to as ‘Karuppu MGR’ or ‘Black MGR’ for his benevolent nature, Vijayakanth received the Kalaimamani award in 2001, the highest civilian honor in Tamil Nadu. The Padma Bhushan, a testament to his remarkable legacy, recognises his impact on both the cinematic and political landscapes.
In a noteworthy announcement, six individuals from diverse backgrounds have been named as recipients of the prestigious Padma Shri Awards for their exceptional contributions in their respective fields.
Dr Nachiyar: A Visionary in Healthcare
Dr Nachiyar, a pioneering figure in the medical field, has been recognised for her distinguished contribution and service to medicine. As one of the founding members of the Arvind Eye Hospital, which commenced its journey with a humble 12 beds in 1976, Dr. Nachiyar played a crucial role in transforming it into a network of eye hospitals. Focused on providing affordable and often free eye care to the less privileged, the hospital has conducted numerous eye surgeries, contributing significantly to the fight against cataract-related blindness in India. Dr. Nachiyar’s efforts extend beyond hospital walls, with active involvement in government projects aimed at combating blindness.
M Badrappan: Guardian of Folklore Tradition
At 87 years old, M. Badrappan, a folklore artist from Coimbatore, has been bestowed with the Padma Shri for his dedication to preserving and propagating traditional art forms. Intrigued by a performance he witnessed in his early twenties, Badrappan delved into the intricate world of Harichandra Kummi, a form of rhythmic dance. Despite being a school dropout and a farmer by necessity, he mastered Valli Oyil Kummi, showcasing Lord Murugan and his consort Valli. Badrappan’s commitment to the art form has extended to training over 200 Valli Kummi gurus, breaking gender norms by teaching women, who traditionally performed Vatta kummi.
Joshna Chinnappa: Squash Prodigy and Sports Officer
Born on September 15, 1986, Joshna Chinnappa stands as one of India’s leading young squash players. A former national champion, she has achieved remarkable success, including winning a gold medal in the doubles category at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Notably, in 2018, she secured a silver medal in the women’s doubles event at the Commonwealth Games. In recognition of her prowess, the Tamil Nadu government appointed her as a senior sports officer of Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) in 2017. Joshna’s recent accomplishments includes winning the World Squash Women’s Doubles Championship in Glasgow in April 2022, for which the TN government awarded her a cash prize of seventy-five lakh rupees.
Joe D’Cruz: Literary Luminary and Community Leader
A Sahitya Akademi award-winning Tamil writer, novelist, and documentary film director, Joe D’Cruz is acclaimed for his literary contributions and community service. As the Tamil Nadu state president of Samskrita Bharati and a management executive in a shipping company, D’Cruz has made significant strides in both literature and social initiatives. His novels, “Korkai” and “Aazhi Soozh Ulagu,” delve into the history and lives of the Parathavar fishermen of Tamil Nadu, earning him prestigious awards. Known for extensive work with coastal communities, D’Cruz is recognised as a pride of Tamil Nadu.
Thiru Joe D’Cruz avl is a pride of Tamil Nadu known for his novels Korkai
and Azhi Soozh Ulagu & as a writer in… pic.twitter.com/xHGCrichZf
— K.Annamalai (மோடியின் குடும்பம்) (@annamalai_k) January 25, 2024
In a fitting recognition of his exceptional contribution to the realm of classical music, Nagaswaram maestro T Sivalingam has been conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri Award for the year 2024. Widely acknowledged as a doyen in the field of ‘Nadaswaram,’ Seshampatti Sivalingam has left an indelible mark on the world of Carnatic classical music.
As an ‘A’ grade artist with All India Radio, Sivalingam’s melodic prowess has resonated across the globe through numerous concerts and solo performances. The recipient of the ‘Kalaimamani’ Award, the highest civilian honor in Tamil Nadu, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, he has been a formidable ambassador of South Indian Classical Music.
Sivalingam’s dedication to preserving the sacred tradition of Nagaswaram is exemplified in his role as a mentor, passing on the art form to future generations through his disciples. The Padma Shri 2024 adds another illustrious accolade to his distinguished musical journey.