After showcasing the state’s Dravidian heritage at the impressive opening ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad on Thursday, the Tamil Nadu government put up a better show. Chief Minister MK Stalin has uploaded a ‘chess dance’ video online where the black queen triumphs over the white in a message that is as political about the sport.
The 3.48-minute dance video titled Check Mate is the brainchild of Pudukottai District Collector Kavita Ramu, herself a trained dancer.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Ramu, who designed and choreographed the dance, said, for him the project was about colour, gender and power, besides it was a tribute to the sport that made Chennai its home in the country. has made.
With the DMK government launching the red carpet for the event, Ramu said: “I intended to make it a chess dance with classical, folk and martial arts elements to make it lively and colourful.”
While she auditioned in Pudukottai, the dance was shot in Chennai. “Since I could not join the dancers in Chennai due to work commitments, director Vijay Raj sent me video clips and pictures from the shoot.” Praising her meticulous commitment to the project, she says she wanted to ensure that the dance remained strictly tied to the chess move.
Among the important elements was getting the music right, and it was composed by Narendra Kumar Lakshmipathy.
Ramu said that given the concept, the project was conceived around the victory of the Kali queen, while the white had the advantage of the first mover.
Kali Rani in the dance is portrayed by Priyadarshini Rajendran, a Bharatanatyam dancer from Pudukottai, who works in the IT industry in Bengaluru and plays chess. Laughing that she’s always preferred black, Rajendran says: “Some of us think black has a better chance, perhaps a counter-intuition.”
What makes the finesse of the final video even more special is that the team did only two days of rehearsals, followed by a shoot that lasted 24 hours, from 6 am on one day to the next morning.
Creative director Raj, who has co-directed a few Tamil films, says he initially envisioned the dance as a music video. “But the plan turned into a visual story about the game, with more specific characters and black as a metaphor. Telling the whole story in just a few minutes was a huge challenge. Many of the actors had never been in front of the camera. “
According to Raju, creative freedom largely helped Ramu present a “compelling narrative”.
Rajendran says that by the time they went to shoot, they were all set. “We were all told about the whole story from beginning to end. As the Black Queen, I had maximum speed. As a Bharatanatyam dancer, I thought I would use those steps, but it was not intended that way. It was choreographed so as to focus on the dynamics of collective body movement.”
So as she walked one square at a time, like a queen on a chess board, she was surrounded by painted faces according to Tamil traditional art in which humans are dressed as horses.
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Suram Sahana, who has previously worked with Ramu in several dance shows, plays the role of the white queen.
The white king was Srinivasa, a classical dancer. Freestyle dancer Manikantan was a black king. Poikkal Kudhirai artists Muthukuran, Deepan, Bhaskar and Cheran, Manigandan, Karthikeyan, Manojkumar, Pratapan, Karthik, Lakshmanan, Divakar, Priyadarshan, Nishanthi, Urvasi, Ritika Jayalakshmi, Narmatha, Kripavati, Durga and Soundarya were also part of the video.