Indian Classical

Sunil Kothari, famed scholar of Indian classical dance, passes away

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Sunil Kothari (Photo: AMG)
Sunil Kothari (Photo: AMG)

Eminent dance historian and critic Sunil Kothari passed away Sunday (27) morning at a Delhi hospital following a cardiac arrest.

Kothari, 87, has been suffering from post-Covid complications for a while.

“He had tested positive for Covid-19 almost a month back and was not in a good condition,” Vidha Lal, a family friend and herself a dancer, told PTI.

Kothari was recovering at home in Asian Games Village but was rushed to a hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest this morning, she added.

Born on December 20, 1933 in Kheda district of Gujarat, Kothari qualified as a Chartered Accountant before turning to the study of Indian dance forms. He completed his PhD on the dance drama traditions of South India, and Natyashastra in 1977 from M.S. University, Baroda.

Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University awarded him a D.Litt. for his research on dance sculptures in the medieval temples of north Gujarat.

Sunil Kothari (L) with late Ramniklal Solanki CBE (C), founder of Asian Media Group, during the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture & Theatre Awards (ACTAs) 2016. (Photo: AMG)

A recipient of Padma Shri award, India’s fourth highest civilian honour, he authored more than 20 books on various Indian dance forms like Bharatanatayam, Odissi, Chhau, Kathak and Kuchipudi. His works also include Sattriya Dances of Assam, New Directions in Indian Dance, and photo biographies of Uday Shankar and Rukmini Devi Arundale.

Mourning the death, actor, dancer and politician Hema Malini said Kothari encouraged young dancers as he took great interest in classical dance forms.

“Sunil Kothari, eminent dance critic has passed away. He was one of those who encouraged me in the initial stage of my career. He was a passionate lover of art, a spl person who took grt interest in classical dance and encouraged young dancers. Will truly miss u Sunilji,” she wrote on Twitter.

The dance scholar held the Uday Shankar Chair in Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University, and taught in the Dance Department of New York University as a Fulbright Professor. He played an instrumental role in establishing the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Sunil Kothari collects an award at the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture & Theatre Awards (ACTAs) 2016. (Photo: AMG)

Kothari was also an elected Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi (The National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama), India’s premier institution for the promotion of performing arts, for his contribution to Indian dance as a scholar.

His numerous titles and awards include the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1995); the Gaurav Puraskar conferred by the Gujarat Sangeet Natak Akademi (2000); the Padma Shri bestowed by the Government of India (2001); and the Life Time Achievement Award of the Dance Critics Association, New York, USA (2011).

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