One to One: Dr MN Nandakumara, Executive Director - Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, UK

Keith Vaz Saturday 24th September 2022 05:18 EDT

Dr Nandakumara is a Pioneer in Indian Classical Arts, and a well-known scholar of the ancient Sanskrit language, literature and philosophy.   He holds a PhD from the University of London and has dedicated the last four decades to teaching, lecturing and propagating Indian Arts and Culture in the UK.  Dr Nandakumara is an accomplished public speaker and has given talks at prestigious events all around the world, including the Westville University in Durban, S. Africa,  Houses of Parliament and Cambridge University.  He has also received many Awards and Accolades over the years.  


As well as heading The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the largest Indian Arts Organisation outside of India, Dr Nandakumara has travelled extensively performing Hindu ceremonies at principal occasions.   Dr Nandakumara likes to relax by reading, watching cricket, catching up on news about India and watching Indian classical music and dance programmes.


1)  Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?


Mattur, India’s Sanskrit Village which I originate from, is where my heart is, but London has been home for 45 years and I have been blessed to have lived in one of the world’s great artistic and cultural cities, which provides a fantastic platform for India’s classical arts.


2) What are your proudest achievements?


Being part of a lasting organisation that continues to successfully set the standard for the teaching and performance of Indian classical arts in the UK, and has been recognised as such not just by the Indian diaspora but with the arts loving public at large.


3) What inspires you? 


In my time at The Bhavan, I have had the opportunity to see the development of many performers from their very first lessons in an art from right through to seeing them on stage as outstanding performers in their own right and highly respected in their chosen disciplines – this is what inspires me.


4) What has been biggest obstacle in your career? 


It’s probably an often-repeated answer – but the Covid-19 pandemic put a massive strain on The Bhavan. For an organisation that is so dependent on face-to-face interactions, having this taken away literally, overnight, posed so many challenges. But I’m proud to say that we adapted quickly – moving our classes to be delivered remotely – and this opened up new avenues for us. The resilience shown by our office and teaching staff, and the engagement of our students were essential in making this a success.


5) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date? 


Sri Maneck Dalal, The Bhavan’s Founder Chairman, Sri Mathoor Krishnamurti, The Bhavan’s first Executive Director, and Dr. John Marr, The Bhavan’s Hon Gen Secretary, are the 3 individuals who have shaped my time in the UK – their support, guidance and experience have been foundational to anything we have achieved here.


6) What is the best aspect about your current role?


Running an organisation that provides access to the best training in the Indian classical arts, and which makes this accessible to all – I believe the beauty of Indian arts is something everyone should experience and to have the opportunity to make that possible is very fulfilling.


7) And the worst? 


There’s no “worst” – instead I prefer to use the term “challenging”. With so many art forms available for learning and consumption, we have to strive to make Indian arts continually relevant and appealing so that there is a continued desire to explore them.


8) What are your long term goals? 


From an education perspective, to standardise the grading system for Indian classical arts so it aligns with how western classical art forms are graded – to ensure transparency across the codes. From an institutional perspective – to grow the quality of our teaching and performance capabilities and continue to set the standard.


9) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?


Providing more avenues for funding for charity and non-profit organisations, and access to the relevant support to make them sustainable.


10) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why. 


Mahatma Gandhi – because he practiced as he preached, and that honesty in thought and action is something I admire deeply.

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