Meera: A fine Kuchipudi dance drama 
- Viswanadham Puligandla, TX 

December 6, 2009 

On November 21, 2009, Dallas Metropolis audience witnessed one of the finest Kuchipudi dance drama performances at Granville Art Center by the Natyanjali Kuchipudi Dance School, in recent times. Srilatha Suri, the Artistic Director, and her students presented 'Meera.'  The program was organized in support of the Andhra Pradesh Flood Relief and was co-hosted by the Telugu Association of North America and Telugu Association of North Texas.  Distinguished guests to the program included the Honorable Mayor Ronald Jones of the city of Garland, Sandhayavandanam Laxmi Devi, Prasad Thotakura, Korsapati Sridhar.  

The theme of the dance drama is both historical and devotional and one that took place in Rajasthan during the regime of the great Mogul emperor Akbar. Meera was born to king Rana Ratan Singh in Kudki, Rajasthan. As a young girl, she was enamoured by an iconic idol of Lord Krishna she happens to see in a procession and becomes devoted to Lord Krishna. As Meera blooms into a teenager, her parents celebrate her marriage with Prince Bhojaraj, the son of Rana  Sanga of Chittod. However, her devotion to Lord Krishna was so intense and immense that she ignores her wifely duties, to the displeasure of her family. As the admonitions of the queen Mother turn futile, she asks Bhojaraj to exercise his control over Meera and change her behavior. Lord Krishna daily awaits Meera’s visits and assures her that her troubles will be over soon and she will establish a name for herself in the world of bhakti. Bhojaraj overhears some of the conversations and demands that Meera prove her innocence. He gives her a snake in a basket but it turns into a garland of flowers. He gives her a cup of poison but the poison has no effect on her. Bhojaraj is convinced of the power of devotion and  allows Meera to continue her devotion to the Lord without any restrictions. Word of Meera’s devotion reaches far and wide and even Emperor Akbar and Tansen visit and pay homage to her. Bhojaraj, infuriated at this, orders her to drown herself in the river. As she attempts to drown herself, she is saved by none other than the Lord himself. Meera continues her devotion to the Lord by singing Bhajans and eventually attains Samadhi and unites with Lord Krishna.  

Kuchipudi dance form originated around 3rd century AD in a small village Kuchelapuram in Andhra Pradesh. Siddhendra Yogi is said to have given its current drama style. Over the years, the art has been perfected and promoted by such illustrious stalwarts as Vempati Chinna Satyam, Shobha Naidu, Srilatha’s guru and several others and has become popular both in India and abroad.

The program was inaugurated by Sandhyavandanam Laxmi Devi as priest Sankaramanchi Nagendra Prasad Sarma recited the Vedic hymns followed by traditional invocation to Lord Ganesha and Pushpanjali, an offering of flowers. The invocation rendered by Samhita Bandaru, Sreeragini Ghantasala, Neha Cheruku, Vathsalya Senapathi, Suman Vadlamani, Monisha Veerapaneni, Midhila Vaddi, Nagarani Kamarapu, Sricharan Navuluri was nicely coordinated to set the mood of devotion. The script was written by Dandibhotla Narayana Murthy and was set to music by Dandibhotla Venkata Srinivasa Sastry. The saahityam was touching, the music melodious, and choreography by  Jaikishore Mosalikanti and Srilatha Suri was splendid. The story was brought to life by exquisite, graceful movements, and mesmerizing expressions of the young dancers trained by Srilatha Suri.

The role of Meera as the young innocent girl was played by Suman Vadlamani. Prahuti Suri as teenage Meera was full of graceful movements and abhinaya and Srilatha as grown up Meera, was filled with devotion, bringing out all the stages in womanhood respectively. Pranamya Suri stole the stage as Lord Krishna in a graceful, yet majestic manner.  The captivating bhajans were rendered authentically. Bhakari Burra as Rana, Dr. Rajesh Adusumilli as Akbar, Srichar Navuluri as Tansen performed impressively. Madhuri Chittajalu and Nagarani Kamarapu played their roles as Meera’s mother and mother-in-law with ease. Lakshmi Gupta, Pallavi Shah, Pranhuti Suri, Midhila Vaddi, Monisha Veerapaneni, Ramya Pusuluri, Spruha Shah and Nagarani Kamarapu and Pranamya Suri as Lord Krishna danced gracefully with coordination as gopikas in Rasakreeda along with colourful peacocks played by Nikita Reddy, Sobhita Pochiraju, Silpita Pochiraju and Anjitha Nair. The wedding procession was colourfully portrayed by the young dancers. 

The colorful costumes, the graceful footwork, the  pleasant and cheerful demeanor of the dancers, Srilata’s exposition of Meera’s bhakti bhava, and the melodious music made the event not only enjoyable but also a shining star in the firmament of classical Kuchipudi dance. It bears abundant testimony to Srilatha as an outstanding teacher and choreographer. Mayor Ronald Jones presented a richly deserving award 'Natya Mayuri' to Srilatha Suri for her dedication in preserving and propagating Kuchipudi and her outstanding community service through dance ballet benefit shows. 

An enormous amount of team work, coordination, perseverance, and dedication was evident throughout the evening. Vasanth Suri and Challa Rajeswari guided the audience through the presentation with their meticulous and professional introductions and narrations. A memorable evening indeed!

Dr. Puligandla Viswanadham hails from Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, and has been living in US since 1968. He is a chemist by education and currently teaches at University of Texas at Arlington, Texas as an adjunct faculty. He and his wife Santha are enthusiastic supporters and admirers of Indian classical music and dance. They have arranged numerous classical music and dance programs in the US. Santha occasionally teaches Carnatic music to interested youngsters. They have been active in the local music and cultural organizations and activities.