Telugu Traditions
- Tadepalli Satyanarayana
e-mail: kuchipudi.bhagavathamelam@gmail.com

August 15, 2014

Ashish Mohan Khokar’s Attendance, The Dance Annual of India 2013-14 titled ‘Telugu Traditions’ with Ananda Shankar Jayant being the Guest Editor (with no detailed mention about the five members of the Editorial Board), is a very compelling reading throwing light on all the essential aspects of the various dance forms of the Telugu populace.  That a well respected and revered person of his stature has come out with such a publication with rich content and aesthetic layout definitely speaks volumes of his insight into the art world in general and his spirited endeavour to demystify the same for the benefit of art lovers of the world at large.

Not surprisingly, a large portion of the annual centres around the contemporary art form Kuchipudi but a review of the articles grouped under various aspects so elaborately covered does show that lot of hard work has gone into the annual by the writers and the flow of information regarding other art forms stirring the reader, inducing a journey to acquire more indepth knowledge of the various traditions. In that direction one can say that the annual has lived up to the expecations as spelled out in the brief editorial by Ashish Mohan Khokar against the backdrop of his bowing in obeisance to a young artist proving that when it comes to art, age is no barrier both for the artist and the connoiseur.

While the initial articles of the dance annual primarily focuses on the artists / gurus from the traditional families, the exponents of the various art forms who brought attention and limelight to their art form in the past few decades, the very much avoidable later part of the annual features a list of so called promising present day Kuchipudi artists including artists who are unheard of beyond their town / city and who are yet to show even a reasonable and respectable form for being a promising star on the horizon. That even the tradition of appropriate costume is not observed in some of the portraits of artists leaves a lot to be desired.

It is indeed a yeoman service that Khokar has done for the Kuchipudi art form by bringing into the forefront the present situation of the traditional families. But there is no mention about their worth, achievements, contributions, values that they uphold etc as an artist / guru so that atleast after reading the annual they will be on the right pedestal and get the deserved opportunities for the benefit of both the artists, preserving the roots of the art form and for the public to get the opportunity to know and patronise artists of caliber. This is one area where the annual has definitely fallen short in putting forth the aspect that the beneficiaries of the various art forms have not done their mite for the Telugu traditions that has made them everything that they are today.

The glimpse of the memorabilia of the art form preserved by the senior Khokar showcased in the annual brought back sweet memories of the not so distant past. Thanks to the efforts of the Khokars in showing foresight while preserving the documents pertaining to the journey of the art forms of the country. This leaves one to wonder what a treasure we have lost by not preserving and archiving many documents related to the art form for centuries and makes one appreciate whole heartedly the efforts of the Khokars in their pursuit of being serious art historians.

While it comes to showcasing any art form in its entirety as attempted in Attendance, there is a need to be more circumspect, careful and be specific about what is portrayed for over time it becomes one more major source of information for research and showcasing the present times to the future generations. The Kuchipudi art form is not just the solo system that is very elaborately covered while there is not much mention about the sahityam and sangeetham aspects of the art form which is a very integral part of Kuchipudi unlike most other classical art forms of India. The list of luminaries who have kept the aesthetic aspects of both in tandem with the nritya apect and their contributions would throw a more wholesome depiction of the art form, Moreover, Kuchipudi Yakshaganam being showcased as one more baani of Kuchipudi is incorrect. In that respect, one felt that the board could have comprised some members from the Telugu art forms for a more wholesome view point for presenting precise and unbiased information.

If at all one needs to point anything for further improvement in the content and the efforts, at the end of it all it makes one wonder what the title Telugu Traditions has got to do with it. For there are not much details about the people, personalities and system that have taken great pains in preserving the traditions for so many centuries now. While Siddhendra Yogi is definitely one of the many who brought the Kuchipudi art form to the forefront, there are historical references for a period - centuries before and after the seer too. Moreover, the traditions pertaining to Telugu art forms including that of Kuchipudi has far too many stories to tell which are to be kept in mind while the onus of taking efforts to preserve the same for posterity squarely lies on all our shoulders.

The annual is a precious and prestigious publication and efforts to make the same like more of a casual publication with more space for biodata type reference to contemporary artists definitely could have been avoided. The same space could have been used to mention about the various ancillary activities like ornamentation, stage craft, props, jewellery related to the art form which would have been more meaningful and purposeful.

It was very befitting to have the annual released in the Telugu heartland in front of an august assembly at Hyderabad. One wishes and prays the cue is taken by either Khokar or others to come out with a more elaborate publication about the various art forms showcased in the annual as a follow up for the benefit of the art world at large.

Tadepalli Satyanarayana hailing from the traditional families of Kuchipudi village, is a Kuchipudi Bhagavathamelam artist and a research scholar.

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