Double treat of Kuchipudi
- Bhavanvitha Venkat

August 11, 2015

Visakha Music Academy, Visakhapatnam, organized a mid-year series of music and dance and as part of it, Kuchipudi was featured on 17th July 2015 at Kalabharathi Auditorium. Kuchipudi dance was presented by two talented young dancers from two different parampara. The program was well organized and the audience too, most of them being members of the elite academy, appreciated the dance performance with dignified acclaim.


Sannidha, disciple and student of Guru Rama Murthy, Principal of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam Kuchipudi Kalakshetram, Visakhapatnam, and Himansee, student of Principal of Satguru Sivananda Nrithyamala Sathya Sai College, Warangal (Telangana), demonstrated how young talent can make a program as absorbing as that of veterans.  Though they are young and their talent appreciated, taking on a serious stage in this format gave rise to some expectations, more so because of they being the disciples of Hari Rama Murthy (originally from Kuchipudi village), and Sudheer Rao from Warangal, go about their work silently and efficiently. Perhaps it’s the effect of their gurus!

The dancers presented overall eight items alternatively. Himansee initiated the program with Rukmini Pravesa Dharuvu, and then performed Bho Sambho, Govardhana Giridhari and Vedalera Vayyarulu. Of these four items, the second item is choreographed by Sudheer Rao and the rest were creations of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam.

Himansee was flawless in her steps and lively throughout. She has an arresting stage presence and perfect balance. Power is her forte and she played the role of Ravana in Bho Shambho (ragam Revathi, talam aadhi, written by Dayananda Saraswathi) chosen by her guru to coincide with the lyric, to detail. The concentration on her every move in the hall was total. As the dancer enacted the climax, playing of rudraveena, the auditorium applauded spontaneously. It was interesting that the audience caught up to the storyline of Ravana’s devotion to Lord Shiva. This is the “connect” that senior and more mature dancers establish and Himansee who is hardly out of school secured similar connect. The poor quality of the audio had some impact on the narrative and in its matching of the portrayal.

The three items that Himansee performed of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam’s choreographies, she did well. Rukmini Pravesam (ragam Kalyani, talam misrachapu, writer - Bhujanga Rao Sharma), Govardhana Giridhari (Taranga nrithyam of Narayana Theertha in Ragamalika, talam adi) and here too the item comes to a climax, as Lord Krishna lifts Mt Govardhana with his little finger in order to protect his people. These are strong portrayals and Kuchipudi flourishes in such items. The last was Vedalera Vayyarulu, the character of third person ‘Devadevi’ (ragam  Kedharagowla, talam adi) setting out to meet Vipranarayana. In all the three items, intricate choreography was executed with ease and poise.

Sannidha initiated her performance with Pranavakaram, followed by a padam Rara na sami, a Thyagaraja keerthana Balakanakamaya chela in Attana, and a Tharangam Nanda Gopala  Krishna, all choreographed by Hari Rama Murthy. Abhinaya pieces demand the best from a dancer. Playing the emotions of a virahotkantitha nayika needs mature mindset. In the padam Rara na sami and in Balakanakamaya, Sannidha wore two different diametrically opposite roles. One was a young heroine and another of a grand old lady. Expressing an unbearable longing for the dear lover and another of devotion, this was an intelligent sequence to reach and make the audience think.
Sannidha’s portrayal of virahotkantitha nayika in the Kshetrayya padam Rara na sami (ragam Kalyani, talam adi) is a tricky item for a youngster, what with the feelings of separation for her lover, yearning for reunion… Her guru packed the item with lot of emotive and in depth content depicting the suffering of the nayika to the arrows of Manmadha, decorating with flowers in anticipation, waiting and waiting …. The interpretation of the lyric depicted thus is vivid, a path rarely explored to such level in Kuchipudi.

Balakanakamaya chela (ragam Attana, talam adi) has come out in an intelligent sequence, contrasting to Sannidha’s earlier item. Her guru perhaps intended the surprise change in the sentiment to communicate the emotive abilities of his shishya. A virahotkantitha in her previous item, she changed, transformed to be a grand old lady devotee Sabari waiting and ultimately with the arrival of Lord Rama, realizing her lifelong wish and showering motherly affection on the very Vishnu Avatar. This was the interpretation for Ela nee dhaya raadhu (why your sympathy isn’t forthcoming...). The yearning, the bhakti rasa took over, waiting with devotion of a lifetime. Alamelumanga (ragam Mohana, talam adi, Annamacharya keerthana) and Nanda Nandana Tarangam of Narayana Theertha (Ragamalika, talam adi) helped in showcasing her talent further and in the later item she performed on plate as is the norm in Kuchipudi.

Recorded audio was used in this event. When two dancers perform alternatively, comparison is bound to arise. To give them credit, both came out with their intrinsic talent and dedicated application. In one way, it was also a good occasion to experience Kuchipudi belonging to two distinct schools. The application and strength in the teaching methods of Guru Sudheer Rao, and the emphasis he places on precise and defined movements and balance is evident in Himansee’s each and every step.  He is candid in his priority, being strict and demanding adherence to the fundamentals, the body stature and firmness.

The choreography of Guru Hari Rama Murthy stood distinct and clear as the emphasis of the items performed is on abhinaya. The scope of abhinaya explored through the chosen items is wide in the Pranavakaram, a prayer to Lord Ganapathy. He created intricate movements, focusing on depicting him in multiple postures and in the jathis too to signify the centeredness to the physical appearance of the Lord.
In the days of escalating costs and designer performances, the elegant and simple format adopted by a respectable arts association provides hope to young dancers that they can get opportunity to showcase their talent to a learned audience. Efforts of VMA need to be appreciated.

Bhavanvitha Venkat is a writer and Kuchipudi dancer. He is a finance consultant, advisor to cultural institutes and likes to work on creative ideas.