At the age of 5, Usha took her first steps towards learning classical dance.
Considering the effort, skills and precision required in classical dance, from learning the postures, adavus and mudras to performing her arrangetram at the age of 8 in front of Guruvayurappan (Lord Krishna) , it was a real quick transition.
This was just the beginning of a long journey and over the years Usha has received numerous accolades.
Usha Suresh Balaje, in a cheerful chat, spoke to me about this long journey spread across 4 decades – K.T. Usha then to Usha Suresh Balaje now.
During late 70s and early 80s, K.T. Usha, the girl from Koothuparamba, was a name to reckon with in the Kerala Yuvajanolsavam (Kerala School Kalolsavam) competition. It is not easy to win medals in this tough competition which has given some of the big movie stars to Kerala film industry. She competed in Bharanatyam, Mohiniyatam, folk dance and light music. Usha went on set records here and one such record is still intact – being a winner in the folk dance category, back to back, for 6 years. Another record during those days is the senate membership, the youngest person to get a seat in the university senate to represent arts.
It was a regular matrimony ad in the newspaper that caught the eyes of her parents, which led to the transition of K.T. Usha to Usha Suresh Balaje. Suresh Balaje based in Chennai, then Madras, is a renowned film producer. Definitely for someone like Usha, who was looking for a career in performing arts, Madras was the perfect place to shift the base.
“I never miss a chance to Dance”says Usha Suresh Balaje
In the same tone, she also added “you never know what will happen next in your life”. She emphasized on the importance of adapting to situations and moving ahead in life.
For a person who never missed a chance to dance, it was curtains down after her marriage. “I wanted to focus on family life” she added while talking about the decision to stop dancing. In 2010, the curtains were raised after a gap of 22 years. This time it was Usha Suresh Balaje who graced the stage with her solo dance performance.
“My children were independent by then and I thought it was the right time for me to get back to dancing” added Usha. In the last 10 years, she has performed at various events , has been the face for few brand commercials and also done acrylic canvas paintings.
Her spouse, Suresh Balaje , son of actor turned producer K Balaje, is the producer of many popular movies in Kollywood, Mollywood and Bollywood. They have two children, son Suraj completed his studies in Canada and daughter Sitara, who has the passion for films, followed the film production route. Sitara is married to Aditya, who is currently working for a multi national company in Singapore.
“Fortunately the whole family got stuck in Chennai during Covid. This helped us to spend some good time with each other after a long gap” said Usha. Like every mother, Usha also made sure that her children get to taste a variety of cuisines. “I turned into a multi cuisine chef, thanks to YouTube” she added while talking about her second passion, cooking.
Only concern for her during Covid was the injury to her knee. Doctor advised complete rest and that meant staying away from dancing. This lead her to sustainable art.
“Each bottle art design is like my own child.”
“There were some bottles which were available in my house. I also have the habit of not throwing away broken accessories like bangles, hair clips, etc. I again took help of YouTube and learnt bottle art. ” said Usha, while talking about the sustainable route taken by her.
She added “I do bottle art only when there is lot of positivity around me. I strive to be a perfectionist and hence give lot of attention to my work.”
In the last one year, Usha has created a niche in this upcycling project. Though she wants to pace the work as per her convenience, her friends have started reaching out to her to at least take the empty bottles and give them a make over whenever time permits. I felt that the perseverance required to become a master in dance forms like Mohiniyattam is helping Usha to focus on bottle art as well.
“Everything happens for a reason and I make sure to enjoy each moment”said Usha about the journey of last 4 decades.
Right support at the appropriate time is important for succeeding in any aspect of life. “Thanks to Almighty, my family & friends who stood by me throughout this journey, without which I would not have achieved any of this.” said Usha Suresh Balaje.
It is indeed important to adapt to situations and be mentally prepared for unplanned things. For someone like Usha, who followed her passion of dancing and found a way to go back to the stage after a hiatus of 22 years, shows that everything will happen if you keep your options open.
While talking to Usha, I could find in her the same energy of the girl who dominated Kerala Yuvajanolsavam – curious, bubbly and zeal to learn and excel. Currently Usha is waiting to get back to dancing while making sure that her new found passion of bottle art is sustained.
‘Always expect the unexpected however make sure to dance to your own tunes’
To know more about Usha Suresh Balaje: https://www.facebook.com/ushasureshbalajedancer