Company History

MKM BollyStars has roots in a rich dance heritage as an off-spring of the well-established and recognized Bharata Natyam (Indian classical) dance institution Manu Kala Mandir (MKM) Dance Productions and Academy.

The Legacy continues…

Manu Kala Mandir (MKM) was established in 1962 in Mumbai, India by Sudha Thakkar in the memory of her late father Manu Mansinha Thacker. The Academy title literally translates to Manu’s Temple (Mandir) of Art (Kala). Manu Thacker was an accomplished industrialist, painter, art critic and well-respected dancer who, in his short life-span of thirty-two years, made great contributions to the artistic community. Co-author with G. Venkatachalam of the book Present Day Painters (currently in university libraries across the US), Manu’s articles as an art critic were frequently published in the Illustrated Weekly of India and Times of India. Manu’s passion for art was not limited to the practice of visual art, and at the young age of nineteen, Manu graced the stage as a dancer in his debut performance alongside the famous Kandyan dancer Chandraleka (aka Mrs. JDA Perera). During this period of his life, Manu was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, studying for the London metric so that he could obtain his bar at Law in London, England. His debut performance was a concert hosted by the Government Tourist Sports Society Dramatic Branch, under the distinguished patronage of his Excellency Sir Reginald Stubbs (Governor of Ceylon) at the Central YMCA Hall Colombo on July 3, 1936. Reviews in the Times of Ceylon attributed Manu and Mrs. JDA Perera’s performance as, “An example of Indian dancing, (The Triumph of Vijaya) was most attractively rendered by Mrs. JDA Parera and Manu M. Thacker. Attired in gorgeous costumes, displaying remarkable mastery of technique, the theme was the meeting of Vijaya and Kuveni, suitable music was supplied by Messrs. SG Abeysinghe, AA Caspersz, and VA deSilva, the item was one of the most principle success of the evening.” This was the first of many successful performances Manu gave as a talented and dynamic Kandyan dancer. Upon his return to Mumbai, India, Manu continued his pursuits in dance. It was his deathbed wish that his daughter Sudha learn Bharata Natyam – little did he know, that this wish for serious pursuit of dance in the family, would continue for generations to come.

Sudha was enrolled at a young age in Bharata Natyam. Falling in love with the art form, Sudha continued her training and professional career under the tutelage and guidance of Thanjavur guru K. Kalyanasundaram Pillai and had the rare opportunity to learn select ancient traditional items under his father, Bharata Vidwan Guru T.P. Kuppiah Pillai. In 1962 Sudha established Manu Kala Mandir Dance Academy in Mumbai India with 4 branches and over 200 students. In 1980 Sudha expanded her Academy to Calgary, Canada, and for many years ran both her primary Mumbai branch alongside with her classes in Canada. Manu Kala Mandir recently crossed its Golden Jubilee anniversary.

Over the tenure of her career, Sudha, an internationally recognized classical dance artist, has received numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Calgary Regional Arts Development, and Shastri Indo-Canadian Arts Institute. In 2006, Sudha was recognized by Alberta Dance Alliance as one of the top fifty artists in Alberta to contribute to the dance scene in the last 100 years. Founder and Artistic Director of MKM BollyStars, Shivani Thakkar, has served as associate artistic director of Manu Kala Mandir for the past decade, and has alongside Sudha, presented and created numerous works that have contributed the diversely rich cultural milieu within Canada.

MKM Bollystars is the next generation in this legacy of dance. Born in April 2010 in Calgary, as an affiliated dance company to Manu Kala Mandir Dance Productions and Academy, Shivani quickly realized that this company could have an artistic reach that was unique, inclusive and globally oriented. The initial years from 2010 to 2012 provided an incubation period for Shivani to cultivate her vision, dreams, and research the potential for the organization she hoped to create. Shivani established MKM Bollystars in the US with a debut performance in Chicago in November 2012. The show was an instant success and the Bollystars were invited to return within two weeks for an encore presentation and for a series of show during 2013. In 2014, the Bollystars expanded their scope of work into the K-12 arena, and 2015 launches the official dance academy.

MKM Bollystars aims to be an all-encompassing organization that emphasizes unity through dance – Unity for audiences, families in the academy, and performers as they delve into the mastery and collaboration of a multitude of world dance styles. Shivani truly believes that dance and it’s rendering by the MKM Bollystars is “The expression of one's inner light, the ages old story of a soul, driven by the sparks of passion, magical like the stars..."