Despite amputation of one leg, Sudha Chandran has established herself in the film line and got a reputation as an ace dancer and actor. She was born into a Tamil family in 1964. Her father K.D. Chandran was an employee of the American Centre in Mumbai. Mrs. Thangam and Sudha’s father were lovers of art hence since childhood; Sudha was exposed to a rich cultural heritage. At the age of three, she started dancing on her own and it was then that her family decided to provide her formal education in dance.
Seeing the dedication of the child, Sudha’s father took her to a famous dance school in Mumbai ‘ Kala Sadan ‘ at the age of five. The teachers of ‘Kala Sadan’ refused to admit such a young girl but Chandran kept on persuading. He discussed the matter with the principal of that school, K.S. Ramaswamy Bhagavatar. He requested him to at least see the child dance once. The principal was surprised to see Sudha’s perform so beautifully and finally admitted her in the prestigious institution.
Sudha practiced with much zeal and dedication. The dance classes started delivering the results and she gave her first dance performance on stage at the age of eight. She continued her general education along with dance. She used to go St. Josephs Convent School where she was awarded the first prize for her first dance appearance. Her enthusiasm was increasing continuously. By the age of 17 she had presented 75 stage programmes which had all been widely appreciated.
On May 2, 1981 , Sudha was traveling in a bus to Tiruchi temple along with her parents. Suddenly at midnight a serious accident took place. Her bus collided with a truck killing the driver on the spot. Sudha was sitting two seats behind the driver. When the accident occurred, she had stretched her legs out straight. The collision was such that Sudha’s legs were stuck. Almost all the passengers were injured. Some college students who were less injured saw the noted dancer and tried to help her out. After a long struggle, they were able to pull her out but her right leg had been injured critically.
She was immediately taken to the nearest hospital. Here the doctor made a mistake. He plastered the leg. If it had been left open, the gangrene could have been prevented. After few days, Sudha noticed that the color of her skin on the leg was changing. After examination doctors concluded that, her leg had developed gangrene. In order to save her life the leg had to be amputated.
Sudha’s position was at that point in her life was like that of Eklavya, the famous archer who was asked by his guru, Dronacharya to cut his right thumb to him. It was as if destiny had confronted Sudha in the form of Dronacharya as her right leg was amputated 7 ½ inches below the knee. Sudha remained in a state of shock and for some time.
However, gradually her confidence started returning. She began walking with the help of a wooden leg and crutches. In the meanwhile, she continued her studies in Mumbai. Her father at that point of her life was a major source of motivation for her.
The circumstances that she was then placed in affected Sudha’s lifestyle for some time. She was unable to sleep for several nights. Nevertheless, she drew strength from the pain and pledged that she would become even stronger. On the advice of people, her father bought her a wheelchair but she did nor use it. Despite facing severe pain, she continuously practiced walking and one day she even went out for a movie with her friends. Now everybody was convinced that this girl would regain normalcy very shortly.
After six months since the amputation, Sudha read in a magazine that Dr. Sethi of Jaipur has started manufacturing artificial legs. The qualities of these legs were such that a man wearing the leg can work on an agricultural farm and even climb a tree. Sudha wrote to him. Meanwhile her family visited a company in the Opera House in Mumbai where they saw this artificial leg (Jaipur foot) in a showcase. Her confidence and desire for dance was again revived.
Her father took her to Jaipur where they met Dr. Sethi a specialist in artificial limbs and recipient of the Raman Magasassay Award. Dr. Sethi examined Sudha’s amputated leg and assured her that she could walk again normally. Sudha’s face brightened on hearing this. Her father informed the doctor that Sudha was a good dancer before the accident, sending him in deep thought. When Sudha inquired whether she would be able to dance with the Jaipur foot, the doctor promptly replied, “Yes, why not? When using this, a farmer can work in wet soil and climb a tree, then why can’t you dance?”
Dr. Sethi took this job as a challenge. He got a foot manufactured which was of aluminum and was very light. An arrangement was made so that the leg could rotate easily. Sudha thus returned to Mumbai with renewed vigor.
With this a new round of struggle began. First, she began to practice walking with her artificial leg. On meeting with success at this first stage, she tried to dance as well. This was however not easy. Although Dr. Sethi deputed an assistant to study Sudha’s dance and make the changes as per the requirements of dance, the changes made by the assistant could not reduce the problems. Her leg would often bleed and as the movements of the leg become faster, the pain became more severe. At the end of every dance session, when she used to see the blood, she would start losing hope. If there had been a used to see her blood and start losing hope. However, her determination did not falter and she was able to control her disappointment. She again went to meet Dr. Sethi along with her dance teacher.
By this time Dr. Sethi was highly impressed with Sudha’s will power. He seriously observed and assessed the various steps of her legs during the dance. Keeping in view the requirement of the dance, he arranged for a new leg. After fitting the leg, he declared that he had done his best and now it was Sudha’s turn.
Sudha restarted the dance practice. The problems were not yet fully over. The bleeding started again. There used to be severe pain due to friction of the skin of the amputated leg and the artificial leg. She used to bear the pain and did not allow her face to reflect her agony. Once she had mastered all the dance positions, she started to wait for an opportunity to perform on stage once again.
Finally she got the opportunity. On January 28, 1984 , she was supposed to present a dance programme along with another dancer Preeti in a hall of the “South India Welfare Society” of Mumbai. This period was quite challenging for her. This was also important because she had already been acknowledged as a proficient dancer before the accident. In addition, she had received two important awards- Nritya Mayuri from the Dance Academy and Bharatnatyam and Nav Jyoti from the Telugu Academy . Both these awards were considered outstanding in the field of dance. Now she had to maintain her reputation. She had come to the stage for the first time after the accident and the painful practice. She had self-confidence was accompanied by some apprehensions.
However, when Sudha reached the stage, she just forgot that her leg was artificial and stared dancing swiftly. People kept on staring at her without a blink. At the end of the show, the hall echoed with the sound of claps.
The programme was considered very successful. Dance reviewers appreciated the performance. Newspapers and magazine were full of descriptions, appreciation and pictures. Sudha had become a star over night. The famous Telugu film producer and publisher of ‘ Newstime ‘ and ‘Eanader ‘, Ramoji Rao, not only praised her but also decided to produce a film based on her life story. The film was titled Mayuri and was directed by A Srinivasan. The director and producer both decided to cast Sudha, herself as the protagonist.
When Sudha was offered the role, she hesitated initially and said that she was fully devoted to her dance only and that she did not have sufficient knowledge of acting, and hence she would not be able to play her role. However, they persuaded and finally Sudha began shooting for the film with much dedication. Since the story of the film was based on her life story, she did not face much difficulty in performing.
The film was a hit. Sudha’s acting won as much appreciation as her dance. Whatever people had read in the newspaper about her talent, they now saw on the silver screen. They saw her dance then the serious accident, the struggle and finally her victory. The entire film was heart rending and people were so moved that they could hardly stop their tears. The film also conveyed a message that even a disaster and can be fought and overcome.
Sudha won a special award-Silver Lotus and Rs.5,000 for her acting in this film. This award was presented by the then President of India , Gyani Zail Singh at the 33 rd National Film Festival on the recommendation of members of the jury.
On seeing the outstanding success of the film, its producer made the film in Hindi as well. This Hindi film was titled Nache Mayuri and it spread the news of her talent in the entire nation. This film easily crossed the borders of India and was watched in several countries including America and was also appreciated. With this Sudha was established as a pro actor.
At the same time, Sudha also continued her studies and got a post-graduation degree. Meanwhile her case for compensation for the accident was also going on in Madras High Court. The judgment came after 15 years and she was granted Rs. 5 lakhs as compensation in 1996. By that time, the value of the amount claimed as compensation had depreciated considerably. Nonetheless, Sudha was content that though justice had been delayed it had at least not been denied.
Sudha married the man of her dreams in 1995. Her husband, Ravi , is in the film line.
With time her contribution to dance declined but her acting performance rose. She got more work than she could handle. After acting in the films, she found that working in TV Soap Operas was more attractive and she could reach common people more quickly and frequently through this. She started accepting more TV serials and less number of films. Her performances in Kabhi Idhar Kabhi Udhar, Chashme Badhur, Aparajita, and Young were widely appreciated.
Sudha worked in all kinds of serials: detective serials such as Commander, Marshal , etc and in children programmes like Shaktiman . Language could not become a bar for her. Her journey of acting started with Talugu films but she worked in Hindi and Tamil film as well.
With time Sudha diversified her roles, she appeared in popular count down film songs such as Avval Number , etc. She also acted in a programme called Nagme from Patna Doordarshan. Despite being Tamilian, she is able to speak Hindi clearly and fluently. Despite spending a long time in Mumbai, the local language of Mumbai could not affect her accent. She has a deep interest in Sher-O-Shayari and uses it in her TV programmes.
Sudha is progressing well and her disability has now been left far behind. She has proved to the world that despite a disability one can touch the peak of success.
Sudha Chandran inspires Polio victim to dance!