lec-dem by P Rama Devi
- Padma Jayaraj,
a cultural organization in Thrissur celebrated a three-day art festival
in connection with its 3rd anniversary. P Rama Devi, an exponent of Kuchipudi,
gave a lecture demonstration for the students of Natyakala Academy, Thrissur.
Rama Devi took the audience down the lines to the very beginning of Kuchipudi,
highlighted its evolution and demonstrated its salient features.
Keralite, she was brought up in Guntur District in Andhra Pradesh, close
to the home of Kuchipudi. She learned the dance from her guru Mahankali
Srimannarayana who belongs to a traditional family. Later she established
Sri Sai Nataraja Academy of Kuchipudi dance in 1989 in Secunderabad. Rama
Devi wrote ballet scripts, choreographed dance items and authored two books
on Kuchipudi dance. Currently she is doing PhD in comparative aspects of
Kathakali and Kuchipudi. She also won a senior Fellowship from the Central
to tradition is the fifth Veda, Panchama Veda. Sage Bharatha in his dramaturgy
speaks of marga tradition." Rama Devi went to the beginning itself. Dance
in ancient times were performed by men in thandava style. Of course the
archetypal dancer is Nataraja. From myths and oral traditions, she moved
to history. 13th c AD was the golden age of dance in Andhra, a period that
saw regional styles. Kuchipudi as a dance form evolved during this period.
It was then nattuva mela, a male oriented dance-drama tradition of Bhagavatas.
With themes from epics, they dealt with history, culture and moral values
attempting even social reformation (the evidence is Machupalli Kaifath).
was the popular one-man narrative then. And the takeoff point for Kuchipudi
was Kalapas. Kuchipudi owes its classical revival to Siddhendra Yogi. Well-versed
in Vedas and Sastras, Siddhappa was a spontaneous poet who sang in a melodious
voice. He chose sanyas and became a devotee of Lord Krishna. When Radha-Krishna
love of Jayadeva was gaining popularity, Siddhendra Yogi focused on familial
values, the love between Krishna and his consort, Satyabhama. His Bhama
Kalapam deals with passionate love in highly refined language set to classical
music. He gave a definite format, introduced stylized footwork. He initiated
young Brahmin boys promising moksha to the practitioners of this sacred
art. Female roles were impersonated by youths. He sang and danced his own
compositions. This sensuous stream became 'Bhama Cult.' The jeevatma-paramatma
concept is the mystical aspect of the Hindu Vedanta.
is another traditional theme. Here, a milkmaid from the Yadav community
establishes her superiority over a Brahmin during a chance encounter. Her
sheer brilliance of wit and insight into life as lived by rural folk in
India is the focal point of the item.
With the concept
of Kalapams, drama and characters entered the stage. With Sutradhara mediating
between characters and the audience, Kuchipudi accepted entertainment as
another function. Hasya and lokadharmi became the vehicles of entertainment.
The exclusive feature of Kalapam is that it portrays character through
song, dance and acting, bringing out the psychological and social nuances.
fortunate to have stalwarts as Sutradharas whose contributions became guiding
principles. Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry, an unparalleled maestro in
the field, created a flutter by introducing women to Kuchipudi in 1930.
Solo items were
compositions of eminent poets were taken and set to music. An eminent guru
and Founder-Director of the Kuchipudi Art Academy, Madras, he brought Kuchipudi
into the cultural map of India with single minded devotion and effort.
It was Vempatti Chinna Satyam who added modifications and made it popular,
performing around the globe.
adheres to four kinds of abhinaya: angika, vachika, aharya, and satvika.
Angika abhinaya relates to body movements, gestures and expression of emotions.
The basic unit is called 'Adagu,' which closely resembles karanas. The
popular item, dancing on the rim of a plate with a pot of water on the
head was introduced later in tharangam. It is pure nritta, not connected
with the theme. Satvika is exclusive to Kuchipudi. It aims at revealing
the psychic nature of the character physiologically. The dancer reveals
the psychic condition through appropriate expressions to enrich the rasa
demonstrated the three important types of nayikas, enacting the same situation-Khandita
Avastha (The husband comes home in the early hours of the morning when
the waiting nayika is almost asleep. Her man comes after a night's revelry
with tell tale signs). Sweeya is a married woman, noble at heart, understanding,
forgiving, and willing to transform her husband with love. In the same
situation Parakeeya (a maiden) demands an explanation from her lover. Taking
a feminist's stance she takes him to task. Capable of analytical thinking
she is not willing to be abused. Samanya nayika is an amoral woman. Steeped
in materialism untouched by love, money is what matters to her. Without
any pangs she can dismiss men. The enactment revealed the psychological
depth to which a dancer goes to reveal a character by using facial expression
and body language.
stamp of Kuchipudi
Kuchipudi has become a popular classical dance form like Bharatanatyam,
Odissi or Mohiniyattam in the south. If Mohiniyattam is marked by its swaying
movements in circles and semicircles, Bharatanatyam is noted for its sharp
angular gestures and quick movements. While Odissi is distinct with its
tribhanga, the beauty of Kuchipudi lies in its spring-like moving up-and-down
of the body that lends vigor and grace.
Her team performed
the traditional items in the evening. The program started with a vinayaka
stuti in natta raga, written and choreographed by Rama Devi and performed
by Nivedita and Srividya. The second item was a Swati Thirunal keertana
in hamsanandi raga that showed Lord Siva destroying Kamadeva for tempting
him during his penance. A javali in kuranji raga set to adi tala projected
the characteristics of Samanya Nayika. A Tyagaraja keertana was followed
by Tarangam, an important item of Kuchipudi. The recital dramatised the
childhood charms of Krishna. And the performance ended with a thillana
in raga Faraz.
Jayaraj is a regular contributor to narthaki.com