History makes the person. The past, whether traumatic or painful, happy or serene undeniably shapes and molds an individual. In some cases, it also shapes the road that is taken, the choices made and the person an individual chooses to become. Some incidents alter, some cement but all of it is part of the bigger plan the universe has for someone. Sudha Chandran was set on the road to her destiny by an unfortunate occurrence. But it is that very incident that makes her who she is, makes her a force to be reckoned with and a subject that inspires awe and respect. The art makes the artist, but so does his/her story, the journey they took and the hardships they overcame.
Sudha Chandran, the woman who dances on the Jaipur Foot was born in Fall, September 21st, 1964 in Kannur, Kerala to a Tamil family. Her family originally comes from Vayaloor, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu but migrated to Palakkad, Kerala. K.D. Chandran, her father had two careers, one where he worked at the office of USIS and one as an actor. She was brought up in her hometown, Mumbai, and attended Mithibai college where she completed a degree in M.A. Economics – certainly a beauty with brain and talent.
Her passion for dance began at the tender age of three and a half years old. It consumed her young life, eating up most of her day – she would attend dance practices after school and return home at nine-thirty in the evening. The influence of dance was such, that despite passing the 10th standard with a first position at 80% she refused to opt for sciences and took up arts in hopes that she could continue her dancing. By now, she had performed at a number of venues and events, and for her, it was just the beginning of the show. The universe, however, had other plans.
In 1981, 16-year-old Chandran was traveling to Trichy by bus where it met a huge accident, resulting in some casualties while others were extremely injured. Sudha Chandran was amongst the few that escaped relatively unscathed, with a few minor cuts and a fracture in the femur bone in her right leg. However, since the patients were large in number, she was attended to by a group of interns who neglected to attend to the cut on her right ankle and wrapped it up with a bandage. This led to her foot developing gangrene, a condition where the body tissue dies. There was a risk of it spreading throughout the body, and she was given an ultimatum: life or limb. Her devastated parents were forced to make a decision that would change her vision of life as what it was supposed to be to what it could become. The amputation broke her, as she truly realized how deep her dream became the fuel for her fire.
Sudha Chandran took the reins and began retracing the steps she took as a child, learning how to walk and eventually walking straight at the four-month mark. She dubs this period as one of the roughest, testing periods of her life. Her resilience truly shines. Once she got the artificial limb called the Jaipur Foot, she underwent three years of physiotherapy which truly helped her recover and return to normal. Even in these turbulent times, Chandran was no stranger to distressing remarks from people who are on the outside looking in. They would lament about how sad it was that her dreams could not come to fruition or express the wish that she could still dance. These comments strengthened her resolve, and she decided to re-learn the skill that was her whole life and was as familiar to her as breathing: dancing.
The painfully slow process coupled with her iron-clad willpower forced her through the phases and it paid off. Chandran knew deep down to the core of being that this was what she truly wanted, and she emerged triumphantly. The day came when she was finally able to tell her father that she was ready to continue down the path she chose for herself long ago. Her father was, needless to say, shocked and awed. Her first show back was a performance scheduled at St. Xavier’s, College. She drew in the attention of the local news. One newspaper dubbed her comeback story ‘Loses a Foot, Walks a Mile’.
Her story drew in large numbers which resulted in the show being completely sold out. She was a bundle of nerves before going up on stage, but her Grandmother comforted her saying the Divine was on her side. However, she quotes that the accident had already depleted her faith in the Divine. Despite being nervous, she was as breathtaking as ever and finished her dance routine, the Varanyam with ease and grace. Her performance was such that she received a standing ovation. But the moment that truly moved her and brought the dancer home to herself was when her father expressed his delight and awe of her by dubbing her the Goddess Sarasvati and touching her feet because she had conquered the impossible.
Following this performance, Chandran traveled the world, as her dancing took her from India to Canada to Yemen and places in between. She also founded the Sudha Chandran Academy of Dance, which has branches spread out in Pune and Mumbai. Chandran had finally made her mark in the world as a successful Bharatanatyam dancer who had risen like a phoenix from the ashes.
In the aftermath of her success, Chandran was welcomed into the media industry. Her debut in the industry was through a Telugu film called ‘Mayuri’, which was dubbed in two other languages. The film also has an Indian remake titled ‘Naache Mayuri’. For her performance in Mayuri, Chandran won one of her many first awards, the National Film Award – Special Jury. Her best-known film role is in the film ‘Anjaam’ as Shivani’s sister, the film also stars Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit.
On the smaller screen, she took on the mantle of the vampire mother in law in an Ekta Kapoor serial called ‘Kahiin Kisi Roz’ which was hit and thus revolutionized Indian television soaps. Other performances worth mentioning are as Gayathri Kaul in K. Street Pali Hill and Yamini/Nimrat Devi in the very famous ‘Naagin 2’. She has also appeared as a contestant in ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa 2’ in 2007. Apart from acting she also appears as a judge in a number of shows such as Zee Dance League and Little Stars which are aired in Tamil and Malayalam respectively. She has made over 50 contributions to the Indian and Tamil media industry, also her images and photos were published on Indian magazines covers
Drama seems to bleed into every aspect of her life. Chandhran met her husband, assistant director Ravi Dang on the set of Sita-Salma-Suzie for the first time. For the two, it was love at first sight and they gelled very well together. Their relationship was based on mutual love and respect and was not held back by her disability. It was, however, opposed by her parents. The opposition was based on the fact that Dang was a Punjabi and Chandran was Tamil. When they failed to convince her parents, they decided to go ahead with the union anyway and got married at Chiranagar Murugan Temple in Chembur in 1994. The couple does not have any children.
Much like everyone, Chandran holds certain favorites close to her heart. She enjoys South Indian cuisine, especially rasam rice and papadam and dining out at her favorite restaurants Green House and The Class in Mumbai. She also has her pick of actors and actresses she admires who are: Shah Rukh Khan, Rajesh Khanna, Sri Devi, Hema Malini, Rekha and Meena Kumari.
Chandran is also a social activist. Having had the firsthand experience of how others perceive those who are handicapped, she set out to create a positive change in that perception. She is the chairperson at The National Association of Disabled’s Enterprises, an organization that leaves no stone unturned in their crusade to correct the misplaced stereotype surrounding the handicapped people. They provide economic rehabilitation to those in need and motivate and encourage the disabled by promoting principles of self-help and belief in one’s self.
Her life was a series of ups and downs, embellished with struggles and triumphs. Nevertheless, with little patience for labels, she fought against the stereotypes and norms of society and brought her dreams to a beautiful fruition. She used her misfortunes as a fuel for the fire, which burned so strongly and forcefully that she overcame the impossible. Sudha Chandran is a breathing example of perseverance and hard work, a true role model for the women who have been set back, who lack the courage, and those who are too afraid. Her life is an example of how nothing can prevent you from achieving your dreams if you put your mind to it and have the force of a strong willpower at your back. Sudha Chandran is the epitome of women power, in all her fierceness and glory. More power to her.
Sudha Chandran biography
Born: 21 September 1965
Place of birth: Mumbai, India
Husband: Ravi Dang
Education: B.A. / Mithibai College, Mumbai, India
Occupation: Film and television actress, Bharatanatyam dancer
Photo source: Bollywood Hungama
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