Please read following article on a british magazine on T. Surya Kumari
The first time I met the performer Surya Kumari, who has died aged 79, was in the mid-1970s, when she travelled from London to lead workshops in Indian dance with youngsters from the Toxteth district of Liverpool. Surrounded by a group of sceptical teenagers, and looking serenely unperturbed, she took to a small stage and began yoga exercises. There was no invitation to join in, but somehow she got the young people's attention.
Surya was soon surrounded on stage by youngsters literally tying themselves in knots. For the next two weeks, she not only led the most harmonious and disciplined of yoga and Indian dance workshops, but also delighted in learning disco dances from her pupils. We knew then that we had met someone exceptional.
Born in Rajamundry, in south India, of Brahmin parents, Surya became a freedom fighter, or more accurately a freedom singer, while still a schoolgirl. Accompanied by her uncle, Tangutoori Prakasam (known as the Lion for his defiance of British troops during the struggle for Indian independence), she sang patriotic songs which became more popular, and proved even more of a draw, than the speeches of politicians.
She was a film star at the age of 12, when a special part was written into the film Vipranarayana (1937) to accommodate her singing talents. Record companies came forward to record her voice, and at a time when gramophones were not yet common, her songs could be heard everywhere. Patrons in restaurants and outdoor cafes would pay extra if their meal was accompanied by Surya's songs, and passing traffic would stop until a song had finished.
Her presence was a major attraction at meetings of the Indian National Congress, and her recordings reached rural areas unvisited by politicians. Even today, her most famous song, Maa Telugu Thalli (in praise of her mother tongue), is sung at the start of social functions in her home state of Andhra.
Altogether, Surya appeared in some 25 Indian films in the 1940s and 1950s, singing and acting in a variety of languages, including Telugu, Sanskrit, Tamil, Gujurati, Hindi and English. In the mid-1950s, she made her first visit to America, as a member of a delegation from the Indian film industry invited to Hollywood by the Motion Picture Association of America (though union regulations precluded her from film work there).
In 1959, she went to New York to teach at Columbia University, and also to add to her skills by studying western classical and popular dance forms. On her arrival, she appeared on television alongside the Indian ambassador and sang Indian songs. She then appeared as Queen Sudarshana in Rabindranath Tagore's The King Of The Dark Chamber (1961) and won the Off-Broadway Critics' Award for Best Actress. She also took the role of Princess Chitra in the dance production of Tagore's Chitra for CBS, and researched Indian stories for Alfred Hitchcock.
In 1965, Surya travelled to London, and her life changed again. Scheduled to play the Goddess Kali in Kindly Monkeys, a new play at the Arts Theatre, she decided at the end of the run to stay on and found India Performing Arts, a project to train performers and mount productions. Annual performances by Surya herself, her students and fellow artists followed at the Purcell Room, in the South Bank Centre, for the next 40 years.
Something of the flavour of these gatherings may be gained from the programmes for two events in 1982, with schoolchildren appearing alongside Ben Kingsley in Homage To Mahatma Gandhi, and Larry Adler's harmonica improvisations (complemented by Surya's instrumental accompaniment) in An Indian Pageant.
Surya's political commitments were engrained in all her work, whether as chief singer at the Gandhi centenary commemoration at St Paul's cathedral in 1969, or with the Hordaland Teater of Bergen, for children in Norway, with whom she worked from 1991 to 1998.
From 1973, Surya was supported in her work by her husband, Harold Elvin, poet, painter and potter, reading his poetry and telling his stories as she sang and played the tanpura and sitar. He predeceased her.
· Surya Kumari (Tangutoori Suryakumari), singer, actor and dancer, born November 13 1925; died April 25 2005