Madurai R. Muralidaran

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Madurai R. Muralidaran
Sri Madurai R Muralidaran.jpg
  • Composer
  • choreographer
  • dancer
  • playwright
  • director
Years active1978–present

Shri Madurai R. Muralidharan is an acclaimed composer, dancer, choreographer, lyricist, playwright and director best known for his large body of modern compositions for Bharatanatyam dancers and his many elaborate dance musical productions. His works explore the complexities of Bharathanatyam theory and rhythms while remaining accessible and appealing to a modern lay audience.


The Times of India's special publication Madhura Geetham, about the artistic heritage of Madurai, recognized Shri Muralidaran as one of the stalwarts of Indian classical dance and music. Shri Muralidaran began his training at age 7 under Guru Kalaimamani Chamundeeswari. He founded Nrithyakshethra Dance Academy in Chennai, India in 1978 and has since trained over 750 dancers.[1] He serves on the advisory board of Alagappa University's online degree course program.[2]

Shri Muralidaran has received numerous accolades. Most recently, Bharath Kalachar conferred the title of Kala Seva Bharathi upon Shri Muralidaran for his contributions to the field of Indian performing arts [3] and Pothy's Parambara Classic Awards named him as Parambara Noothana for his contributions to music composition and dance theatre. [4]


Sri Muralidaran has been the creative director in charge of music, choreography, script and effects for several large-scale dance musicals. His productions, incorporating both dance and drama, are based on both traditional Hindu mythology as well as stories from ancient and contemporary Tamil literature.[5]

In November 2009, he debuted Silapathigaram, a production based on the classic Sangam Tamil epic by Ilango Adigal,[6] and which has since been performed worldwide from the US [7][8] to New Zealand.[9][10] He is the first person to depict Amarar Kalki's historic thriller Sivakamiyin Sabadam on stage in his 2013 large-scale production lauded by The Hindu as a "zero-error show".[11] His other large-scale productions include Yagnaseni (based on the story of Draupadi from the Mahabharatha),[12] Avadhara Purushan (based on the Kamba Ramayana),[13] and Yadhava Madhava (based on the story of Krishna).[14] His most recent production is Karna, centered on the generous yet flawed anti-hero of the Mahabharata, which debuted in Chennai in April 2018.[15]

Notable compositions[edit]

Sri Muralidaran has composed and released more than 120 audio albums exclusively for the field of Bharathanatyam. His dance music albums are used by Bharatha Natyam dancers worldwide. He composes both the music and lyrics for his pieces, which reflect innovations in thalam (rhythm patterns), ragam (melodies) and themes.  In 2001, Sri Muralidaran was recognized by the prominent Indian music and dance critic Subbudu for "ushering in a new era of composing varnams for the Bharatanatyam repertoire with new themes and... encompassing varied rhythmic cycles with matching lyrics."[16]

Rhythmic repertoire[edit]

Having studied mridangam (percussion) in addition to his pursuit of Bharatha Natyam, Shri Muralidharan compositions explore the nuances of rhythm theory. He plans to have composed full margams (repertoires) in all 35 thalams of the Carnatic Sooladhi Saptha thalam system by 2020, [17] with margams in 20 unique thalams completed to date.[18]

Since 2006, Shri Muralidaran has composed several entire margams (traditional repertoires) in rare thalams,[19] including Ashta Dasa Margam, composed in misra jati ata thalam,[20] Akhanda Margam, composed in kanda jati ata thalam,[21][22] and Nava Dhruvam, composed in sakeerna jati dhruva thalam, the longest thalam cycle with 29 aksharas.[23]

In 2018, Shri Muralidaran highlighted his exploration of rhythm with a pair of dance festivals. In April 2018, his rhythm festival Chaturvidham presented four new margams each completely set to a rare thalam.[24] The festival culminated with a massive live class with over 320 students learning the nattuvangam and choreography for an alarippu set to Sankeerna Jaathi Dhruva Thalam, the longest thalam in the Carnatic system. This class set Guinness, India Book and Asia Book records for the largest live Bharatha Natyam dance lesson.[25] In November 2018, Shri Muralidharan presented Dhimahi, a three-day dance festival described as "dynamic meditations on Laya" (rhythm), featuring new margams set to 5 more rare thalams. In addition, renown guest artistes Shobana, Lavanya Shankar, Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala, Anitha Guha, Uma Murali, Rukumini Vijayakumar and Srekala Bharath showcased choreography in their own styles for some of Shri Muralidharan's other compositions.  [26]

Melodic repertoire[edit]

In addition to composing individual songs in all 35 thalams of the Carnatic Sooladhi Saptha thalam system,[27] Shri Muralidaran has also composed over 120 varnams, and jathswarams in all 72 Melakarata Ragas.[28] Creating compositions in all 72 ragas is an accomplishment that Shri Muralidharan shares with only one other, M. Balamuralikrishna.[29] He likes to explore rare ragas in his compositions, such as Chandrajyoti, Ganamurthi, and Madhyamavati.  [30]

Thematic repertoire[edit]

His unique compositions include a dance depicting daily life to the soundtrack of a heartbeat, a varnam on the Sun God (Surya), a shabdam on Jesus, a depiction of Krishna's dance upon the five-headed snake Kalinga, kauthuvams on Mother and Father, a keerthanam on the Indian Independence movement and pieces on women's empowerment.[31][32][33] His compositions are used frequently by Bharatha Natyam dancers of different styles and from diverse regions.[34][35][36][37] He has written a number of new compositions in the kauthuvam style, including ones in praise of the Hindu deities Nandi, Ayyappan and Venkateswara. [38]

Sri Muralidharan's thematic repertoires include Sri Anjeneyam, which centers on the stories of Lord Hanuman[39] and Nayaka, which explores the different roles in life for males from boyhood through adult.[40]


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  2. ^ "Alagappa Arts – Dance - Alagappa arts".
  3. ^ "01-12-18-city-cinema". The Hindu. 2018-12-01. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  4. ^ "Pothys Parambara Classic Awards 2018". Chennai Patrika. 2018-12-26. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  5. ^ "Young stars resplendent in Dance Drama". Indian Newslink. 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  6. ^ Srikanth, Rupa (2009-11-27). "Engrossing story well depicted". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  7. ^ Winters, Rita (2011-11-05). "Silapathigaram: The justice of the anklet". Narthaki. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  8. ^ Chitrapu, Anu (2010-06-24). "Vision Aid Presents Justice Of The Anklet". Lokvani. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  9. ^ Venkat, Ratna (2016-05-31). "Dance Musical exemplifies Kamba Ramayanam". Indian Newslink. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  10. ^ Raman, Venkat (2017-03-20). "Kannagi ignites a volley of emotions in Auckland". Indian Newslink. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  11. ^ Srikanth, Rupa (2013-02-28). "Melodramatic yet riveting". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  12. ^ Chatterjee, Jagyeseni (2016-05-05). "Yagnaseni: Of Draupadi's destiny and desire". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  13. ^ Ramani, V.V. (2015-07-23). "Dancers, an asset". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  14. ^ Venkat, Hamsa (2016-07-04). "When the music moves you". India Link. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  15. ^ "The untold story of Karna". The Hindu. 2018-04-27. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  16. ^ Subramaniam, P.V. (2001-04-27). "A Touch of Novelty". The Statesman.
  17. ^ "Rhythm to set the stage on fire". The Hindu. 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  18. ^ "Composing unique talas, ragas for over a decade". The New Indian Express. 2018-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  19. ^ Saranyan, Vidya (2009-11-20). "Spotlight on rhythm". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  20. ^ Saranyan, Vidya (2009-01-30). "Tala hogged limelight". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  21. ^ Srikanth, Rupa (2006-02-10). "Explosive mix of tune and tempo". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  22. ^ Sundaram, B.M. (2006-02-12). "Akhanda Maargam by Madurai R Muralidaran & Deepa Mahadevan". Narthaki.
  23. ^ "New dance production from Madurai R. Muralidaran". 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  24. ^ Ramani, V.V. (2018-04-12). "Madurai Muralidharan's unique margams". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  25. ^ Express News Service (2018-04-02). "334 pairs of feet moved in unison to rare talaas in Chennai". New Indian Express. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  26. ^ "Rhythm to set the stage on fire". The Hindu. 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  27. ^ Ghatraju, Jeyanthi; Saigal, Ranjani (2008-10-15). "In Conversation With Madurai R. Muralidharan". Lokvani. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  28. ^ "Composing unique talas, ragas for over a decade". The New Indian Express. 2018-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  29. ^ Ramani, V.V. (2018-04-12). "Madurai Muralidharan's unique margams". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  30. ^ "Rhythm to set the stage on fire". The Hindu. 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  31. ^ Saranyan, Vidya (2009-01-30). "Matching steps with grace". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  32. ^ Lalithasai (2008-06-13). "Dance extravaganza". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  33. ^ Ramani, V.V. (2018-04-12). "Madurai Muralidharan's unique margams". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  34. ^ Ramani, Nandini (2001-08-03). "New themes skilfully presented". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  35. ^ Srikanth, Rupa (2006-02-10). "Explosive mix of tune and tempo". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  36. ^ Ramadevi, B. (2006-08-18). "Confluence of styles". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  37. ^ G.S. (2014-03-28). "A visual spectacle". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  38. ^ "Rhythm to set the stage on fire". The Hindu. 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  39. ^ Saranyan, Vidya (2008-11-28). "Dominated by valour and devotion". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  40. ^ "Muralidharan's production". The Hindu. 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2017-07-24.