Kumari Kamala
Kumari Kamala in the early 1950s
Born (1934-06-16) 16 June 1934 (age 89)
Other namesBaby Kamala, Kamla Laxman, Kamala Laxman, Kamala Lakshman, Kamala Narayan, Kamala Lakshmi Narayanan
Occupation(s)Dancer, actress

Kumari Kamala (born 16 June 1934) is an Indian dancer and actress (also known as Kamala Lakshman). Initially featured as a child dancer, Kamala appeared in almost 100 Tamil, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada films throughout her career. In the 1970s, she became a teacher of the Vazhuvoor style of dance in which she specialises.

Early life and career

She was born at Mayuram, India,[1] and belongs to Tamil brahmin community. Her sisters Rhadha and Vasanti are also dancers. At an early age Kamala began taking lessons in the Kathak dance style from Lachhu Maharaj in Bombay. She also took lessons in Hindustani classical music from Shankar Rao Vyas. She was discovered at age four by Tamil film director A.N. Kalyanasundaram Iyer when he attended a dance recital. He cast her in small roles in his films Valibar Sangham (1938) and Ramanama Mahimai (1939) where she was billed as Kamala.[2] Her dancing was noticed by other filmmakers and she moved to Hindi films with Jailor in 1938 and Kismet and Ram Rajya in 1943. Kamala's mother moved to Madras so her daughter could train under the Bharatanatyam teachers Kattumannarkoil Muthukumara Pillai and Vazhuvoor B. Ramaiyah Pillai. Kamala's first role in a successful Tamil film came in 1944 with Jagathalapratapan where she performed the Paampu attam. Kamala played a double role in her next film Sri Valli (1945) and also played Krishna in the film Meera. However, it was her film Nam Iruvar that would make an impact on Tamil cinema. Nam Iruvar was full of patriotism and Gandhian songs, and its dances helped to revitalize and legitimize Bharatanatyam. The film is credited with sparking a "cultural revolution" throughout the Tamil speaking areas of India.[2]

In 1953, Kamala was invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation festivities.[3] In the late 1950s she toured internationally, performing in China and Japan. In 1970, the government of India awarded her the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian award.[4] She also taught dance for two terms at Colgate University after being awarded its Branta Professorship in 1975. In 1980, Kamala moved to New York City permanently and began teaching classical dance.[5] She established a dance school in Long Island, Shri Bharatha Kamalalaya.[4] In 2010 she received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for her contributions to the arts.[6]

Personal life

Kamala married twice. Her first husband was the cartoonist R. K. Laxman. The marriage ended in divorce in 1960.[7]

This was one of the earliest divorces among the Hindu community in India, where divorce was simply not available for Hindus until 1956. The years of this marriage were the years when Kamala attained fame, and she was known as "Kamala Laxman". This later became a cause for confusion, because R.K. Laxman's second wife was also named Kamala Laxman. To reduce the confusion, Kamala took the new name "Kamala Kumari" in later life. Kamala later married again, in defiance of Hindu religious practice. Little is known of Kamala's second husband, T. V. Lakshminarayanan, who died in 1983.[citation needed]

The second marriage produced one child, a son named Jainand Narayan, who is an officer in the United States Army.[5]



Partial filmography


  1. ^ Menon, Indira (1999). The Madras quartet: women in Karnatak music. Roli Books. p. 55. ISBN 81-7436-078-6.
  2. ^ a b Guy, Randor (7 January 2002). "She danced her way to stardom". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 24 March 2002. Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  3. ^ Cour, Aparna; Ajīta Kaura (1976). Directory of Indian women today. India International Publications. p. 28.
  4. ^ a b Kumar, Ranee (14 July 2006). "The danseuse from 'Kismet'". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  5. ^ a b "'Kumari' Kamala Bharatanatyam Dancer". Kutcher Buzz.com. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Kamala Lakshmi Narayanan: Bharatanatyam Indian dancer". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  7. ^ De, Shobhaa (31 January 2015). "An 'uncommon' marriage: RK Laxman and Kamala". Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  8. ^ "Interview: Kamala Lakshman, Bharatanatyam dancer & Guru". Narthaki. August 2000. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  9. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.