Anila Sunder

Sundri Lifetime Sindhyat Award


Having acquired Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Mumbai University, Anila’s natural choice would have been to teach the subject, which she did by being a lecturer in Jai-Hind College, Mumbai. Born to Dr.Nanki and Dr.Gobind Makhijani–both admired and renowned medical practitioners-she knew the importance of academics. She topped her class academically but on a personal level, she was passionate about dance. Her parents wanted her to become a doctor but Anila chose a different path-to become a classical dancer.

At the age of 11 years, Anila passed Kathak examination successfully from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad. Her award at Youth festival for receiving the First Place in Classical Dance at Inter-Collegiate Annual Festival 1968 reinstilled her belief of choosing right direction in life. Guru Hazarilal, Padmashree recipient Damayanti Joshi and Shri.Vijay Shreshta made her dream come true. Her talent was further nurtured by Prof. Popati Hiranandani who introduced her to Sindhi literature.

Starting from 1971 by performing at Youth Exchange Programme in Japan, she gave several performances on stage and television in London, Nigeria, Lagos, Accra and Sweden, Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Luxembourg. She made noteworthy contribution to Kathak and expansion of Sindhi culture. Soon she formed her own performing unit along with which she staged over 1,000 performances globally.

Moving on with the dance journey, she bagged another milestone by learning Odissi from Guru Natbar Maharana and Guru Shankar Behra. Her natural culmination was Geet Govind, dance ballet in Hindi based on eternal love poem of Radha-Krishna, that Anila conceived. She gave dance demonstrations in Kathak and Odissi organized by Maharashtra Tourism. The only dancer hailing from Sindhi community, Anila dedicated her life to classical dance and revival of Sindhi Art and Culture. She composed and choreographed thematic ballets and dance dramas encompassing community cultures, festivals, customs & traditions and promoted the Sindhi language. Her passion of doing something different made her produce memorable ballets:

  • SIKKA SAJAN JEE - Love Legends of Sindh from Shah Jo Rasalo
  • SINDHYAT JEE SURHAAN - Festivals of Sindhis
  • THEEU NA JUDA JANI MUNKHAAN - Life of a Sindhwarki businessman
  • SINDHU - Based on the civilization of Mohen-Jo-Daro
  • GEET GOVIND - Eternal Love poem of Radha and Krishna
  • SINDH MUNHINJEE AMAA - Trials and tribulations of people during partition of India
  • VERSES FROM NOORI GRANTH - Based on poems from Noori Granth and life story of Dada T.L. Vaswani & Dada J.P. Vaswani
  • SINDHU DHARA - History of Sindh from Mohen-Jo-Daro to partition of India
  • ZAAL. . . KADENH ZER, KADENH ZABAR - Depicting different facets of Life of a Woman - Anila Sunder being first proud recipient of a grant from National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language, Ministry of HRD (Govt. of India)
  • JAAG SINDHI JAAG - Quest of young Sindhi girl to find her cultural roots
  • DHARMAKSHETRA KURUKSHETRA - A pivotal role in Dharmakshetra Kurukshetra, a dance ballet produced by North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC)

Anila has an endless fire to achieve milestones. Her rich repertoire kept the tradition alive with performances at over 65 cities namely Adipur, Agra, Agroha, Ahmedabad, Ahmednagar, Ajmer, Akola, Amravati, Amarnath, Barmer, Banswara, Bengaluru, Beas, Bhilai, Bhopal, Bilaspur, Chandigarh, Dharamshaala, Dhule, Faizabad, Firozpur, Gandhidham, Gwalior, Hyderabad, Indore, Jabalpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Katni, Khadakwaasla, Kolhapur, Kolkata, Korba, Kulu, Kurukshetra, Leh-Ladakh, Lucknow, Ludhiana, Manali, Mandu, Mount Abu, Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Patiala, Pimpri, Potasaheb, Pune, Raipur, Rajnandgaon, Rajkot, Shimla, Sholapur, Surat, Thane, Udaipir, Ujjain, Ulhasnagar, Vododara, Varanasi, Washim, Yavattmal, etc...Her various modules with this medium got her to be a part of the movies Jai Jhulelal and Pyar Kare Dis too. She was privileged to learn from Pandit Birju Maharaj and Smt. Kanak Rele who added finesse to her art. She also experimented with a fusion dance co-choreographed by Jon Burtt-Australian contemporary dancer, at the NCPA in Mumbai. Adding to her repertoire acquired from her gurus, Anila Sunder made her own collection too by presenting:

  • Vande Maataram and Jai Ho
  • Panihari
  • Ghoomar
  • Nataraj
  • Mangalam
  • Saraswati Vandana
  • Hum Karen Rashtra Aaradhan
  • Aandhia Mein Jyot
  • Bhagat
  • Guru Prarthana
  • Gagan Mein Thaal Nanak Shah Fakir
  • Hanuman Chalisa
And many more...
Today, at 66 years, she still has the zest of spreading our culture to the next generation and her troupe globe-trotting to promote the ancient heritage of Indian classical dance and music. She realizes this vision under the banner of Sindhu Nritya Sangeet Academy, a registered trust of which she is the Founder-President. The prime objective of the academy is to promote cultural awareness amongst the youth and imbibe the aesthetics of performing arts and education.

Significant Contribution

Bestowed with a persona that would touch and turn stone to gold and never to turn back, her passion of doing something different worked as an enrichment significantly and she gifted the industry some memorable ballets like Sikka Sajan Jee, Sindhyat Jee Surhaan, Theeu Na Juda Jani Munkhaan, Sindhu, Geet Govind, Sindh Muhinjee Amaa, Sindhu Dhara, Zaal...Kadenh Zer, Kadenh Zabar, Jaag Sindhi Jaag and Dharmakshetra Kurukshetra. She has enriched her Kathak repertoire by choreographing a more items likes Chaturang, Thumris, Bhajans, etc... Additionally she hasalso choreographed dances on Vande Maataram, Jai Ho, Panihari, Ghoomar, Peacock dance, Nataraj, Mangalam, Saraswati Vandana, Hum Karen Rashtra Aaradhan, Aandhia Mein Jyot, Bhagat, Guru Prarthana, Gagan Mein Thaal Nanak Shah Fakir, Hanuman Chalisa and many more...Moving with the demands of students, she has taught few classical dance numbers from films. Dance being an integral part of weddings, she has choreographed some sangeet ad mehndi songs too. Her various modules brought in a new wave in her career with her stint with movies Jai Jhulelal and Pyar Kare Dis and with a musical video based on the Guru Nanak.

A contribution is incomplete without family support. With the grace of God, Anila was supported by noble parents who had a vision beyond the conservative Sindhi society. This was doubled by her enthusiastic and liberal husband. In years to come, the couple was blessed with a talented daughter who carboned her mother, and eventually joined Anila in her astounding performances in India and abroad.

Contribution at the society level

Dance is not just a profession for Anila Sunder, it is her passion; that which allows her to bring joy to people, and that too with no remuneration. She has choreographed and presented dances based on the poems from Noori Granth penned by Dada T.L. Vaswani and some other rhymes by Dada J.P. Vaswani, Pune for his birthday celebrations. Some other charitable performances have been for Brahma Kumaris in Mount Abu, for Shadani Darbar in Hinglaj-pilgrimage in Balochistan- and Hayat Pitafi temple in Pakistan. Prisoners deserve entertainment too and so Anila was invited by the Office of The Superintendent Central Jail, Jodhpur, Govt. Of Rajasthan to perform with her troupe. She presented a Republic Day float in collaboration with IndusInd Bank Ltd. and organised by Priyadarshini Academy depicting aspects of Indus Valley Civilization on India Tourism Day. She performed for Institute of International Affairs in Lagos for fund-raising programme by National Womens Society, Nigeria, and gave a charity show for building Shri Paramhans Charitable Cancer Hospital And Research Center, Jabalpur. She has not only been kind to entertain the likes of needy women, the sick, the prisoners, the jawaans, and the children, but also has given opportunities galore to the deaf and dumb to perform in her troupe. In this way, she has created a new path for them for their lives. She has had done many lecture- demonstrations in schools and college to bring in awareness amongst the youth of their rich culture.

Contribution at the State level

Anila Sunder presented her talent in Amravati, Akola, Dhule, Nagpur, Nashik, Pimpri, Pune, Solapur, Washim, Yavatmal, etc...where she was felicitated by local organisations. She performed for AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association) at Ahmednagar on Armoured Corps Day where she alongwith her troupe got a standing ovation for Vande Maataram-finale item. She rose to fame with her Manch Pravesh at Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute, then moving on to recitals at Kal- Ke-Kalaakar Sammellan, Lions Club, NCPA for Russian delegation and Sur Singar Samsad in presence of Smt. Sitara Devi. Her performances at Ordnance Factory at Amarnath, at Ulhasnagar in honour of Admiral Tahiliani, at National Defence Academy Army camp at Khadakwasla and few more by South Central Zone Cultural Centre (Nagpur) gained her recognition amongst the ranked cadre of the society. She was privileged to deliver over 200 shows across 10,000 international tourists by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation. She judged dance competitions held by IIT, Jai-Hind College, Prem Puri Ashram, St. Xavier’s college and others. Her stint as faculty member of Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute was a successful one. Being recognised by Maharashtra government, she was honoured to perform at Raj Bhavan in honour of Mr. C.Subramaniam (Governor of Maharashtra then) and in Mumbai in presence of Vilasrao Deshmukh. Her awards have been countless but some that deserve to be mentioned are the Nritya Ratna award by Mr.Chhagan Bhujpal (Dep.C.M. of Maharashtra), Priyadarshini Award, Buxani Foundation Award, Suvidha Award, Sahyog Award and Vocational Excellence Award by Rotary Club of Bombay.

Contribution at the National level

Anila Sunder performed at Sindhu Darshan festival in Leh-Ladakh for jawaans of India four times, one of them being in presence of honourable Ex-P.M. of India, Shri.Vajpayee. She was member of Regional Selection Committee (RSC) under Cultural Talent Search Scholarship Scheme implemented by CCRT, Govt. of India. Her performances have been in august presence of Padma Vibhushan Kishan Maharaj in Varanasi, Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi, at Kurukshetra for Gita Jayanti Utsav, His Excellency Shri.Trivedi (ex-Governor of Gujarat) in Ahmedabad, at 100 th year of Gwalior Vyapar Mela, by Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya in Bhopal, for Baisakhi Utsav in Chandigarh, by Jaipur Nagar Nigam, at Surajkund Crafts Mela in Haryana, that got her to showcase her art in all parts of the country. Her memorable performance has been at Sindhi- Sammellan in Ahmedabad in presence of honourable P.M. of India-Narendra Modi. She conducted workshops in New Delhi for NCPSL, Patiala for NZCC, Bairagarh for Madhya Pradesh Academy, Raipur and Rajnandgaon for Chhatisgarh Academy, Ahmedabad for Sindhu Bhavan Trust and Gandhidham for Indian Institute of Sindhology. She also performed in New Delhi at World Book Fair 2016 by National Book Trust. She was bestowed with Jhulelal Award by All India Sindhi Panchayats Federation and Lifetime Achievement Award by Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli Ain Sahit Sabha. She adorned magazines like Bharat Ratna in Hongkong, Swagat by Indian Airlines, Paanch Janya, Femina, Sindhu Darshan by Tarun Vijay and leading newspapers like The Times of India, Dainik Bhaskar, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times and many more.

Contribution at international level

On the international front, Anila Sunder’s first performance was at The Land Of The Rising Sun- Japan within Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. She started her glorious journey with Institute of International Affairs in Lagos for fund-raising programme by National Womens Society, Nigeria and went on to perform for Indian High Commission, Accra. She performed for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London and was invited to Stockholm-Sweden for India Week celebrations. The combined association of Swedes, Indians and Kulturhuset of Stockholm recognized her unique talent and demanded additional performances too. Dancing from Oslo to Copenhagen and Amsterdam to Luxembourg was an easy affair for Anila. She was also honoured to participate in Festival of Dance and Music in Teheran, Iran. Anila Sunder performed at 6 th and 7 th Sindhi Sammelan at Orlando in 1999 and at Chicago in 2000 for which she trained and presented local artistes . The Sammelans, organized by Alliance of Sindhi Associations of Americas and supported by Walt Disney, attempted to connect Sindhis of all ages and retain its heritage. She trained and performed with artists in New York for LISA (Long Island Sindhi Association) where she was covered on iTV too, and in Sint Maarten at Caribbean islands wherein she presented the history of Sindh. She presented her art in Dubai innumerably, the most memorable being at India Fest celebrations 1997 to mark Golden Jubilee of Indias Independence. She has been fortunate to perform in Sindh within Karachi, Hinglaj Mata, Hayat Pitafi, Mirpur Mathelo and Hyderabad.

Contribution to the Field

Kathak originates from the word Katha meaning the art of storytelling. The meaning can be explored as narrator and school of dance; Anila Sunder lived up to both meanings.
Anila as narrator: With graceful grammar and pleasing aesthetics, Anila reflected sincerity to classicism. She not only performed in over 65 cities in India but also across 25 countries abroad, and has also promoted Indian and Sindhi art and culture amongst youth. Bestowed with musically swift feet and razor sharp mind, she kept mounting the pedestal, ensuring her roots were firmly grounded. Her passion of doing something different made her narrate her memorable ballets:
Anila as school of dance: Anila strived at developing new talent and shared her art form generously with students from 7 to 70 years old. They regularly appear for Kathak dance examinations from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal, Navi Mumbai. Anila Sunder has conducted dance workshops in many cities and has judged at various dance contests in public and private organizations. She had a successful stint as a faculty member of Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute. She realizes this vision under the banner of Sindhu Nritya Sangeet Academy, a registered trust of which she is the Founder-President.

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