HAVING showcased the state’s Dravidian heritage at the impressive inaugural ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad on Thursday, the government of Tamil Nadu did better. Chief Minister MK Stalin has posted a video “Chess Dance” where the black queen triumphs over the white in a message as much political as on the game.
The 3.48-minute dance video, titled Check Mate, is the brainchild of Pudukottai district collector Kavitha Ramu, who is herself a trained dancer.
Speaking to the Sunday Express, Ramu, who designed and choreographed the dance, said for her that the project was about color, sex and power, as well as being a tribute to the game that made Chennai its house in the country.
As the DMK government rolls out the red carpet for the event, Ramu said, “I wanted it to be a chess dance, with elements of classical, folk and martial arts, to make it vibrant and colorful.”
While holding the auditions in Pudukottai, the dance was shot in Chennai. “As I could not join the dancers in Chennai due to work commitments, the director, Vijey Raj, sent me video clips and stills from the shoot.” Praising his meticulous commitment to the project, she says she wanted to make sure the dance stuck strictly to chess moves.
Among the critical elements was the good music, and it was composed by Narendra Kumar Lakshmipathy.
Ramu said that given the concept, the project was designed around the triumph of the black queen despite the white having the first-mover advantage.
The Black Queen of Dancing is played by Priyadarshini Rajendran, a Bharatanatyam dancer from Pudukottai, who works in the computer industry in Bengaluru and plays chess. Laughing that she still prefers black, Rajendran says, “Some of us think black has a better chance, maybe counter-intuitive.”
What makes the finesse of the final video even more special is the fact that the team only did two days of rehearsals, followed by filming that lasted 24 hours, from 6 a.m. one day , the next morning.
The creative director, Raj, who has worked as a co-director in some Tamil films, says they originally conceived the dance as a music video. “But the plan changed to a visual story about the game, with more specific characters and black as a metaphor. It was a huge challenge to tell the whole story in a few minutes. Many artists had never been in front of a camera.
According to Raju, the creative freedom Ramu gave greatly helped in projecting a “compelling narrative”.
Rajendran says they were perfectly prepared the moment they entered for the shoot. “We were all told the whole story, from start to finish. As the dark queen, I had maximum moves. As a Bharatanatyam dancer, I thought I would use these steps, but it wasn’t planned that way. It was choreographed in such a way that the focus is on the dynamics of collective bodily movement.
So as she moved one square at a time, like the queen on a chessboard, she was surrounded by faces painted in the traditional Tamil art form in which humans dress up as horses.
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Suram Sahana, who has already collaborated with Ramu in many dance shows, played the white queen.
The white king was Srinivas, a classical dancer. Manikantan, a freestyle dancer, was the black king. Poikkaal kudhirai artists Muthukuran, Deepan, Baskar and Cheran, Manigandan, Karthigeyan, Manojkumar, Prathapan, Karthick, Lakshmanan, Divakar, Priyadarshan, Nishanthi, Oorvasi, Rithika Jayalakshmi, Narmatha, Krupavathi, Durga and Soundarya were also part of the video.