Siddhendra Yogi Natyakalotsav 2012
- Sudha Sridhar

March 4, 2012

The Siddhendra Yogi Natyakalotsav 2012, a festival of dance, was recently conducted in Kuchipudi Natyakshetram, organized by Siddhendra Yogi Abhivrudhi Committee with none other than Dr. Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma as the Chairperson. The festival being celebrated for the past ten years (on the Bhishma Ekadasi day) was envisaged on a much larger and grand scale this year.

As a mark of respect and reverence, the grand gurus of Kuchipudi Dr. Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma, Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, with the contributions from various Kuchipudi artistes of the country, built a temple in the name of Siddhendra Yogi and the celebration every year starts with a bullock cart ratha yatra wherein the traditional families of the whole village come with lights beamed around, a picture portraying a blend of religion, culture, tradition and heritage still being preserved.

The organizers this year bestowed with pride, Chinta Krishna Murthy ‘Yakshagana Yuva Suthradhara Puraskar’ award to Dandibhotla Srinivasa Venkata Sastry for his remarkable contribution to music in Kuchipudi art form. The list of gurus honoured for their rich and unique contribution to the art form virtually comprised who’s who of Kuchipudi dance scene of today with the likes of Vedantam Ramu and Dr. Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry being honoured during the course of the festival.

The four day festival apart from the felicitations of eminent artists and gurus had one thing or the other for all those who graced the festival. The schedule for all the days started with special training camps for aspiring students followed with lecture demo sessions in Sri Siddhendra Yogi Kuchipudi Kalapeetam by stalwarts of the art form.

Lecture Demo sessions
The inaugural session saw Dr. Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma explain in detail the various aspects of Kuchipudi dance, in particular the ‘Abhinaya in Kalapam.’ He shared his in-depth knowledge in his inimitable style. Dr. Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma being one of the vital link to the past, present and future of the dance form explained as to how Kuchipudi dance can for convenience sake be compartmentalized into three types, the Yakshaganams, the Kalapams and the Kelikas.  The audience was awed to listen to him when he clearly explained the synthesis of the contemporary Kuchipudi dance style being an extension of Kuchipudi solos.

The demonstration and video presentation of Kuchipudi adavus by Dr. Uma Ramarao, was not only well received but was also very much appreciated for the foresight that she had in documenting her master Prahlada Sarma’s adavus in rare video footage and she graciously offered the same to Kuchipudi village.

Dr. Ramalinga Sastry spoke at length about Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and Natya Sastras apart from touching upon the related Anubhanda Shastras. He opined that the knowledge base witnessed in the Kuchipudi village and the performances of the artistes deserves more number of Padma Shris walking the streets of Kuchipudi than the handful that is currently observed.

Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry dealt with one of the attractive repertoire of Kuchipudi, namely Sasirekha Parinayam from a fresh and new perceptive. Much was to follow in the evening when the same was witnessed in the festival in dance form. Veena Murthy Vijay who has done a comparative study of Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and Karnataka Yakshaganam demonstrated on nritya hastas and abhinava hastas in the light of both the art forms.

The much awaited negative character analysis in Usha Parinayam by ‘Yakshaganam Kulapathi’ Pasumarthy Rattaiah Sarma kept the audience spellbound all through the session. Rattaiah Sarma was seen performing and enacting like a 20 year old artiste with lot of energy and freshness in his approach ably supported by couple of accomplished artistes from the next generation of Kuchipudi traditional family. The artistes and participants from various dance forms who were eagerly following his lecture demo were literally on their feet in awe and appreciation for all that he stands for the present day Kuchipudi Yakshaganam. There is an urgent need to document his knowledge and performances and preserve it for posterity.

The session by the awardee of the festival, DSV Sastry on the new perception in Kuchipudi music was handled with excellent composure and the dais was flowing with ear pleasing music 360 degrees. The voice, the diction, the rich music content, his ability to explain the uniqueness of music for Kuchipudi and Kuchipudi Yakshaganam in particular was probably one of its kind in the history of the festival and Kuchipudi Kalapeetam. He had very liberally provided vocal renditions of his compositions for Kuchipudi music, the contemporary challenges and improvisations and brought out in detail how he always kept drama and the literature in his mind as an integral part of the character and mood intertwined with a finesse of Silpam – aesthetic structure. One would like to have a recording of his session to adorn the library of the art world to know the richness and uniqueness of music for Kuchipudi Yakshaganam. The art world is going to hear a lot from this humble and simplicity personified multi talented artiste from Kuchipudi village, for a very long time to come.

In his special talk on the role of Bhagavatas in Kuchipudi repertoire, Tadepalli Satyanarayana Sarma, the primary trustee of the Festival extolled upon the role of Bhagavatas in Kuchipudi. One can easily feel the pain in his voice and demeanor when he gave a clarion call to the Kuchipudi artists of the world not to adulterate the art form from the high pedestal that has been preserved for centuries by the traditional families of Kuchipudi. Hope the message gets loud and clear to the artistes who are causing knowingly or unknowingly damage to the rich repertoire of the art form.

Evening performances                    
'Sasirekha Parinayam' - Kuchipudi Yakshaganam

Anuradha Vikranth and Shama

Surya & Prarthana Prasada Rao

Suhasini & Shweta Shetty

The evening saw people throng from the entire village and its surroundings, participants, along with the performers and delegates walked their way to the Ramalingeswara Temple bang in the middle of the agraharam flanked on one side with that of the imposing and exclusive temple for Siddhendra Yogi. It was like a classic scene from one of the bygone eras of the art world. One had to rub the eyes to see the agraharam square near the temple literally parade artistes of all ages and stature in a lively but quite methodical way with music and dance take their place in the audience – an unparalleled uniqueness of Kuchipudi art from the traditional repositories of Kuchipudi for centuries.

The organizers had very meticulously planned for the evening performances wherein the stage was shared by both the traditional artistes from the village with their Kuchipudi Yakshaganams, Kuchipudi artistes from the other parts of the world along with performers of various other dance forms too given opportunity to show their mettle.

The performances of the festival started with traditional Poorvarangam - in Kuchipudi it denotes doing puja to the stage followed by the entry of Chinta Ravi Balakrishna with his solo performance. Like how a farmer who is given a plough in hand goes methodically ploughing the land, Ravi Balakrishna was all over the stage with his dancing skills and finesse. Mantap Prabhakar Upadhya, a Karnataka Yakshagana artiste from Bangalore presented Sri Krishna Leela in a very traditional way which included even wearing of old jewellery, doing justice to the popular adage that old is gold.

The second day evening’s prime performance was of Kuchipudi Yakshagnam ‘Sasirekha Parinayam’ by Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry. The artistes from the third generation traditional Kuchipudi families portrayed the same roles that their ancestors had done in similar plays in their  hey days.

There were many solo performances and jugalbandhi in the festival by new generation artistes and hats off to their guts and audacity to perform in front of a very learned audience and on the other side one also had to appreciate the patience exercised by the traditional purists to go through the performances. As rightly said by one of the performers, whatever may be the stature of the artiste, it is really a great honour to perform in Kuchipudi village in front of a gathering full of accomplished artistes, yet simple and large hearted audience appreciative of all levels of performance dished out in the festival.

The Kuchipudi Yakshaganam ‘Mohini Bhasmasura’ saw the stage full of artistes and the very colourful and lively performance by Hari Ramamurthy won him many accolades even though the role played by him was per se a negative character. The performers gave real life to the characters on stage and made one feel that they were actual witness to the original event of the story enacted.

Anuradha Vikranth and Shama Krishna, both from Bangalore, presented a jugalbandhi of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi on the final day of the festival. Anuradha had taken basic charis and adavus and very gracefully with her in-depth knowledge in the subject brought out the similarities and variations in the jugalbandhi. The curtain came down on the festival with the Kuchipudi Yakshaganam ‘Narthanasala’ by Dr. Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry from Kuchipudi. 

The Sri Siddhendra Yogi Kalavedika wore a grand look and the simple but quaint atmosphere that one usually sees was transformed into a spectacle of rich colours and contour. The dance stage set at a very comfortable level and distance for a clear view to enjoy the rich fare presented was attractive yet traditional and blended well with the backdrop of the temple. Hats off to the organizers for providing glimpses of the glorious history of the art form in Kuchipudi village along with the vibrant thriving of the present for all the participants and delegates alike to see, who had probably come from bigger but maybe hollow towns and cities.