|Other names||Baby Kamala, Kamla Laxman, Kamala Laxman, Kamala Lakshman, Kamala Narayan, Kamala Lakshmi Narayanan|
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.
She was born at Mayuram, India, 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. 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 Jagathalaprathapan 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.
In 1953, Kamala was invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation festivities. 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. 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. She established a dance school in Long Island, Shri Bharatha Kamalalaya. In 2010 she received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for her contributions to the arts.
She was married to cartoonist R. K. Laxman, but the marriage ended in a divorce in 1960. Her second husband, T. V. Lakshminarayanan, died in 1983. She has one son from her second marriage, Jainand Narayan, an officer in the United States Army.