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Rediff.com  » News » Dancer Ram Gopal's ashes to be scattered in France

Dancer Ram Gopal's ashes to be scattered in France

Last updated on: October 23, 2003 21:16 IST

Legendary Indian classical dancer Pandit Ram Gopal is to have his ashes scattered in the grounds of a family chateau in the south of France, it has been revealed.

Gopal, 92, who died earlier this month at a London Care Home, was revered along with Uday Shankar as an icon of Indian classical dance.

His extraordinary beauty and inspired rendition of Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Kathakali won him a widespread international following.

After a six month stint at London's famous Aldwych Theatre in 1939, a feat no other Indian dancer has ever managed to equal, he was invited to tea with Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace.

Sixty one years later - in 2000 -  he was received by Queen Elizabeth II, who awarded him the Order of the British Empire.

In the last year of his life, Gopal was increasingly confined to his room at the Norbury Care Home in Croydon, South London. The end came just after midnight on October 12, his long time friend Ms Pam Cullen told rediff.com.

Miss Cullen, a former culture adviser to the Indian High Commission in London, also revealed that Gopal's ashes are being taken to France this week to be scattered in the grounds of the chateau owned by the Lamorrise family.

At the invitation of Mrs Claude Lamorrise, Gopal spent a decade living at the chateau as a friend of the family and a permanent guest. Earlier, Lamorrise had lost her filmmaker husband, Albert, in a helicopter accident.

When she also died, a restless Gopal moved  to Bangalore, where he was born and where his skills as a dancer were noticed by the then Yuvraj of Mysore.

It was the Yuvraj's generous patronage that enabled Gopal to move to London where he would become associated with some of the greatest ballet dancers of all times, including Alicia Markova, with whom he danced a famous Radha
Krishna duet, Margot Fonteyn and Ninnete de Valois.

Unable to settle back into Bangalore in his old age, Gopal telephoned Pam Cullen in London and told her he was returning to the British capital.

It was Cullen who arranged for him to be admitted to a Care Home near her own house in Surrey.

For the past three years she had his power of attorney and walked over to see him several times a week.

"I went to Heathrow airport to get him but he didn't know who I was," Cullen recalls. "I got him into the car and finally he clicked back and said, 'Take me to my hotel' ( The Rembrandt) in London."

"I managed to get him into Norbury Care Home run by an Indian couple. They had a lovely room on the first floor overlooking a park. Paintings of his mother and father and a Nataraj were all that was left of his treasured possessions.

"Of course people came and paid tribute to him and sat by him, three or four every week, That kept him alive, but he was starting to sink."

The cost of keeping Gopal in the Norbury care home was picked up by the Lamorrise family, Cruydon Council and the Royal Ballet Benevolent Fund.

Mira Kaushik, director of the London-based contemporary dance company Akademi, met him 20 years ago and  describes him as a Maharaja figure who single-handedly raised the profile of classical Indian dance in the West.
 
"Occasionally, when we went to see him in Norbury, he would ensure that he wore his head gear," recalls Kaushik.  "He lived like a maharaja. Whenever he turned out he had his regalia and his jewellery and his head gear, a stitched turban, on his frail figure."

Gopal became a patron of Akademi and it was at a 21st birthday function to celebrate Akademi's coming of age that he made his last public appearance two years ago in 2001.

 

Shyam Bhatia in London