Lifetime Arts Achievement Awards

2021 Recipients

Smt. Vatsala Sivadas

Smt.Meera Venugopal

Shri. Jegathesan Sharma

Smt. Bharathi Sharma

Shri Kesavan Pallusamy Chettiar

Shri. Sri Ganesan

Shri Dr. Chandramohan

Smt. Shangita Namasivayam

Shri Shankar Kandasamy

Shri Samuel J. Dass

Smt. Guruvayur Usha Dorai

Vatsala began her artistic journey in dance in 1952 when she was presented by her husband and teacher, the late V K Sivadas, at her arangetram or debut.

In 1957, the year of Malaysia’s birth as an independent nation, Sivadas and Vatsala became a phenomenon when they captured the imagination of the nation with their dances during the first Merdeka celebrations. Their performances were replete with rich costumes, props and supported by musicians of high caliber.

Vatsala and Sivadas were star performers at national and royal events such as the Paramount Princes’ Installation, the Sultan’s Installation, the Rulers’ Conference and the first Merdeka Day Celebrations in 1957. They established their dance school, the Sivadas-Vatsala Dance Troupe in 1957 and were pioneers in conducting Indian dances classes on a regular and systematic basis. Their dance centres covered several areas in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Klang, Seremban, and Port Dickson.

They were the first dance couple to be documented by the Malayan Film Unit (now known as Filem Negara) in 1962. Through their dance school, they opened the way for many aspiring students to world of Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Indian folk dances. They also enjoyed the distinction of being the first to present an Indian cultural programme entitled “Salangai” on Television Malaysia in 1963 – the year television broadcast services began in the country. Their popularity grew by leaps and bounds and they became regular performers in this new medium. Their duets “Shiva Parvathi” and “Peacock Dance” mesmerized generations of dance lovers at home.

In the 1970’s, the Malaysian Ministry of Culture invited Sivadas and Vatsala to choreograph the dance drama “Anarkali” and this was followed by a wave of creativity. Their works such as “Dakshayagam”, “Parijatha Pushpa Haranam”, "Geetopadesham”, and “Shakuntala” were major events in the annals of Malaysian dance history. In fact, a Malay version of “Shakuntala”, the ancient Sanskrit play written by Kalidasa, was produced by the Malaysian Ministry of Culture as a dance drama with songs arranged by the legendary Hamzah Dolmat and presented by the queen of Malay Asli singers - Kamariah Nor. It premiered at the state dinner in honour of the Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi during her official visit to Malaysia. Both Vatsala and Sivadas were regularly called upon to perform at official functions for visiting foreign
dignitaries - US President Lyndon B Johnson, Shah of Iran, British and Japanese Royalty, and many others. As cultural ambassadors of the country, Sivadas and Vatsala’s have performed in India, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Their hard work and dedication to Indian culture in Malaysia was recognized by the Government of India when the Indian High Commission in Malaysia presented Sivadas & Vatsala with 2 sets of peacock feathers for their untiring work.

In the early 1970s, both Vatsala and Sivadas met His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswathi. Inspired by Swami Shantanand, they collaborated with Gopal Shetty and his wife and dance partner Radha to lay the foundation for the Temple of Fine Arts in 1981.

At the Temple of Fine Arts, Vatsala along with Sivadas, Gopal Shetty and Radha Shetty choreographed all the major dance drama productions
produced by Swami Shantanand Saraswathi who selected themes loved by different communities and gave each an interesting interpretation like “Swan Lake”, “Lady White Snake”, “Mahsuri” (full length dance dramas) and “Artist’s Dream” (a short poetic contemplation of fantasy and reality). “Swagatham” and “Premanjali” became signature pieces of the Temple of Fine Arts. In the 90s, she groomed senior dancers in the art of choreography and assisted Swami Shantanand Sarawathi in producing more major stage works like the ‘Ramayana – An Asean Confluence’, ‘Sundera Keralam’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Taj Mahal’, and ‘Shakuntala’. In 2005, Vatsala Sivadas was conferred the institution’s honour of Nrityacharya by His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswathi at the spiritual inauguration of Saraswathi Maha Vidyalaya, Temple of Fine Arts, Perth.

In 2009, Vatsala Sivadas was honored by the Government of Malaysia when she was declared Tokoh Orang Hidup by the Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan (Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture). In 2010, her lifelong dedication to the arts in Malaysia was acknowledged at the BRDB NST Dance Malaysia Tribute. In 2011, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Astro in
recognition of her dedication, professionalism and vital contribution in the field of dance. And in 2012, Vatsala notched up a double award. In June, she was once again honoured by the Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan – she received the Anugerah Tokoh Seni under the dance category. In July, The Temple of Fine Arts International honoured her with the title Jivita Kala Seva. The award was presented by Pandit Birju Maharaj, who at present is the leading exponent of the Kathak style of dance in India.

Vatsala Sivadas has taught hundreds of students spanning generations. Currently one of the Directors at the Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur, she continues to teach dance...sharing her lifelong love for the art form.

Srimathi Meera Venugopal ‘s journey in Bharatanatyam began in 1970 when she became the disciple of Pathmabooshan Dr.V.P.Dhananjayan and Pathmabooshan Smt. Shanta Dhananjayan of Bharatakalaanjali Chennai. She is among the pioneer batch of students to graduate from this Academy.

Srimathi Meera Venugopal performed her arengetram at R.R.Sabha Mylapore in Chennai in 1973 and subsequently obtained her post graduate  Diploma in Bharatanatyam from Bharata Kalaanjali Chennai in 1977. She learnt Natuvangam under the tutelage of Pathmabooshan Smt. Shanta Dhananjayan and also from Mrindanga Viduvan Sri Karaikudi Krishnamoorthy in 1984.

Smt. Meera’s artistic journey spans five decades when she had established a Bharatanatyam school in Ipoh, Teluk Intan, Klang and now in Petaling Jaya. In the course of her career as a Bharatanatyam Guru, she has trained hundreds of students and had personally choreographed many of the dance items and still doing choreography of dance items till today.

Her vast contribution has been duly recognized by many quarters as she had received various awards , notable of which are the Kala Sewa Award in 2009 by Dr.V.P.Dhananjayan and Smt.Shanta Dhananjayan

Awarda from the Soorya and Sopnam Arts for contribution in the promotion of Indian Arts in Malaysia ; Certificate of appreciation in 2010 from Y.B.Dato’ Seri S.Samy Velu bestowed by Puteri M.I.C. for dedication and commitment for the upliftment of Indian Classical Dance in Malaysia.

Bharata Kalaanjali has come a long way in the  last 48 years in imparting the skills and knowledge of the divine art of Bharata Natyam to children and youths in Malaysia. It had also conducted numerous dance concerts and charity shows in Ipoh, Teluk Intan, Sg.Petani and Kuala Lumpur with great success. The last charity programme being for Persatuan Penjagaan Kanak Kanak Cacat Kelang Selangor and Pusat Penjagaan Kanak Kanak Cacat Taman Megah with a contribution of RM 30,000.00.

Smt.Meera is a dedicated Bharatnayam Guru who conducts classes in Petaling Jaya now.

Kesavan Palusamy Chettiar started his early education in this art from under the late Guru Vidwan Ramanathan. With over 35 years in this industry where he is associated with the melodious tunes, Kesavan is a household name. Kesavan is also no stranger to the drama world, having started in local movie as well leaving his viewers in stitches. To date, Kesavan has been featured in a number of albums in Malay, English and Tamil, capturing his versatility in music. Kesavan has also accompanied many dance recitals featuring both local and foreign singers and artistes. His fame brought him to the Royal Albert Hall in London where he accompanied our very own Malaysian song bird Siti Nurhaliza.

He studied the detailed intricacies of Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam under the tutelage of the great Guru K.J.Sarasa of Chennai, India for over 7 years. A pure traditionalist, the accolades and recognition Sri Ganesan received for Bharatanatyam makes him one of the best exponents of this ancient art form in the world. All the best Sri Ganesan is the fine product of the renaissance of Bharatanatyam.

Received Special Prize in the Inter Collage competition in 1982 organized by Stanley Medical Madras, India.


He became the first Malaysian to make debut his Bharatanatyam Arengetram in Chennai in 1984.   Selected under the Talent Promotion Scheme with rs10,000 gift by the Tamil Nadu Govt in 1985.  The only Doordarshan Kendra, India Graded television Artist living in Malaysia up to date from 1987.  


Received the Golden Jubilee Award, Chennai in 1999.

Represented Malaysia presenting Ramayana dance drama 7 times at various International Dance Festivals with his dancers.

Received M.I.C. Life Time Achievement National Award for Bharatanatyam in 2012.

Received the Life Time Achievement Award from Astro in 2012. The only male up to date.

Life Time Achievement Awards from Bangalore in August 2019 and in March 2020.

'Living legend ' title in July 2020 from SCL rhythms, Bombay, India.

Received an Honorary Doctorate for his meticulous service in Bharatanatyam.

Life Time Achievement Award from Singapore in Sept 2021.

Received the International Award, "Icon 2021' from Bombay, India in sept 2021.

Appointed as the Nominee for the selection of the International artists for the title ' Icon 2021' for over 20 countries.

BHARATANATYAM - Born in Kuantan, Malaysia, Guru Sri R Chandramohan’s involvement in Classical Indian Dance started at the age of eight when he started his nuances with Guru Srimati Visalachi Ramachandran, who taught and guided him to a successful Arangetram in 1979. His love for Indian Classical Dance led him to the Bharathachoodamani Dance Academy in Chennai, India, where under the guidance of the legendary dancer Padmasree Guru Sri Adayar K.Lakshmanan, he obtained his diploma in 1984 (in Bharatnatyam).

KUCHIPUDI - He went on to learn yet another dance form – Kuchipudi and in 1986, he completed his training at the Kuchipudi Dance Academy, Chennai under Kalaimaamani Guru Sri Sopna Sundari, Bharatha Kala Ratna Guru Sri Venpatti Chinna Sathya and Kalamaamani  Guru Sri Priya Ramanan. NATUVAANGGAM – He further enhanced his skills in Natuvaangam, a recitation of Classical musical notes that is part of a Classical Indian Dance Performance.

After his glorious learning in India Guru Sri Chandramohan returned to Malaysia and in 1982 founded the Persatuan Kesenian & Muzik Dan Tarian Klasik India, Selangor. Having conducted dance classes all over Malaysia, Guru Sri Chandramohan has trained over more than 2000 students in the last 37 years. He presently conducts classes at Ipoh, Cameroon Highlands, Rawang, Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur.

Guru Sri Chandramohan successfully launched his biography in 2017 – The Tough Road to Divine Art showcasing his life, struggles and how through sheer dedication, devotion and perseverance he achieved great fame and recognition and how he came to be known as one of the most Divine Bharatanatyam Dancers and Guru in Malaysia.

Shangita Namasivayam is a well-established dancer who today shares her passion with young and aspiring dancers through her dance school, Kalpana Dance Theatre. For Shangita, dance is not some rarefied, exotic activity far removed from the perceivable. Instead, dance has always been the manifest expression of the unmanifest impression. After completing her early years of dance in Sri Lanka, Shangita pursued the artform further at Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts in Chennai, founded by Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, one of the contemporary greats of eastern culture. Trained by brilliant gurus in the true gurusishyaparampara, Shangita completed her Diploma and Post-Diploma courses with First Class Honours. Rukmini Devi once said of Shangita, “She is highly intelligent, gifted, and is a polished and an accomplished dancer.” Words of praise are rarely heard from this great personality.

She toured extensively with Kalakshetra and went on to work with the internationally renowned dance choreographer Chandralekha. With Chandralekha, she was involved in creative and innovative explorations of Bharatanatyam. To enhance her understanding of movement, greater strength and suppleness, she took up the ancient martial art form of Kalaripayat. It would be no exaggeration to say that Shangita has travelled widely as an ambassador of Indian Classical Dance. She has been honoured with the titles Natya Kalamani and Nritya Choodamani. She is also the recipient of the Boh Cameroonian award in 2006. Shangita has also been actively involved in the experiment of using dance as a  form of therapy for the mentally and physically impaired (Australia). Dancing with joy, Shangita imbues technique and grammar with a sparkling quality, bristling with life. Her presentations are intense and emotionally charged. Shangita’s spirit is dance.

Shankar Kandasamy heads the department of Bharata Natyam at the Temple of Fine Arts Malaysia. Trained in the multi-disciplines of Odissi, Kathak, Western Classical Ballet and  contemporary dance, Shankar has also learnt folk dances of India and Malaysia’s Malay and Chinese dances. He holds a Masters in Dance from the Bharathidasan University and is currently enrolled for a PhD with the Tanjore Tamil University. He has been a major choreographer for all of the Temple of Fine Arts productions and has conducted and trained almost ninety over Arangetrams till this date. As a soloist he has performed extensively in India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and major cities in  the USA. He is the recipient of the prestigious International  Arya Bhatta Award conferred of him in Bangalore India. He has a strong working knowledge of Tamil and Sanskrit and his early training in Carnatic violin under the Lalgudi bani makes him a much sought after resource person in the Bharata Natya dance circles.

Samuel J. Dass, or Sam as he is fondly known in the music circle, started his love affair with the Sitar at the tender age of 7. His first guru was his own father, Jabamalai Dass. His love and passion for music has brought him to learn from some of the very best Sitar players, namely Maheswaran Orme (from the Temple of Fine Arts), Giani Bachitar Singh, Raj Kumar Sharma and Professor Haridev of Chandighar University (under whom he was able to obtain the ‘Sangeeth Bushan’

Most notably, Sam had the opportunity to learn from the world renowned sitar maestro Ustad Shahid Parvez in Pune, India. He was under Shahidji’s guidance for 7 months as a composer, Sam has released 8 albums to date (Sitarasa, Sitarasa Nostalgia, Vrajalila, Biography of Swami Sivananda, Vidiyal, Raga Moods, Prana and Swarasia). The two honours that he was awarded at the Cameronian Arts Awards 2004 – for the best original composition and best solo performance categories under his band Prana – is a belated recognition much deserved. In 2019, he was again awarded the BOH Cameronian Arts Award for best original composition.

Sam has had the good fortune of playing with some of the top musicians in Malaysia and abroad. He recently represented Malaysia for the World Championship of Performing Arts in Hollywood, Los Angeles, USA. He won 7 gold medals and one silver medal for the eight categories he took part in. He also won 7 Champion of the World plaques and was the only one from the Malaysian team to be chosen to compete in the Grand Championships which was held at the world famous Palladium Auditorium. In 2014, he was honoured the title Sultan of Sitar by Unique Arts Academy with the collaboration of National Department of Culture, Arts Negeri Sembilan, Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia for his magnanimous musical contribution.

Besides the US, Sam has also performed in Australia, Singapore, Brunei, Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and India. Sam’s dedication to this ancient art form is total and the art world is richer by his experience, expertise and most importantly, devotion.

Mathura Natya Mamani Nrithya Aacharya Kalai Thaai Guruvayoor Usha Dorai, is no stranger to the world of music as she was born into a family of acclaimed Carnatic singers and musicians from Kerala, India. It is to her father, Mridangam Maestro Guruvayur Dorai and her aunt, Tamilisai Maestro Guruvayur Ponnamal that she owes her artistic and creative visions. The founder and principle of Laasya Arts Academy, Guruvayur Usha is a Bachelor Degree holder from Madras University, graduated in Sociology with music as an elective subject. She has made her dance debut under the tutelage of Smt.Indra Rajan and Shri Pandanallur Srinivasa Pillai with her "Arangetram" in 1983. As a testament of her dedication to her profession, the title of ‘MADURA NATYA MAMANI’ was conferred to her in 1986. She later pursued a diploma in Bharatanatyam. Her combination of talents as a dance/music teacher, choreography,composer and instrumentalist mastering not only the Nattuvangam but also mridangam, tabla and veena have made her an exceptionally rare breed of teacher.

Laasya Arts is her dream school which serves not only as a dance academy, but also as creativity hub where a lot of ideas are created and applied in musical, dance and theater arrangements. To date, Guruvayur Usha Dorai conducted 49 arangretrams, including 3 vocal arangetrams which each one is uniquely presented and far different from each other. Apart from that, she also has produced and backboned a lot of in-house and collaboration productions. Some of her significant productions are MURUGA CHARANAM, GOVINDA, MAA..!-A TRIBUTE TO MOTHERS, NRITHYA YOGA, SAMARPANAM, and MANTHRA TANTHRA. Recently, she toured her production KAAPIYAM, all over India and received many good critics and credits to her effort in spreading the Tamil Literature works. Besides that, Guruvayur Usha serves her passion involving herself in choreography and orchestration. LAHARI, a production by Damaru Creations, crystallizes the teachings of Aadi Sankara into a well-received dance and musical production in Malaysia and Singapore which intensified credits to her talent in choreography. In addition, AMRAPALI HARMONY FUSION PROGRAMME by a Singapore based production company, GR Vision also utilizes her expertise in music dance and theater orchestration and it has been successfully touring the world. Not stopping there, she has indulged in some literary work where she has written 4 padha varnham lyrics, 3 shabdams and 7 padhams which is definitely helping her to soar higher in this artistic world.

All her efforts through these years had been fulfilled when she was conferred the title ‘Nrithya Aacharya’ and ‘Kalai Thaai’. It is also worth to note down that she aptly received the award ‘Queen of Nattuvangam’ in 2016 & Kappiya nattiya nayaki, Nattuva perarasi and along with Nattuvanga ratnakara award in the same year. Adding more to the list are Aryabhatta award, KARTANATAKA ( INDIAN AWARD) and KALA SAMMAN award by Bharatiya Samskrithi Club Kolkata in Kuala Lumpur. Other highlights in her life include life time achievement award by AIDA International and Natya Icon award by Veharra Arts Kuala Lumpur in 2020.

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