My Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam
- Lakshmi Mani, Chennai
August 6, 2012
Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam,
Lakshmi Mani, Telugu writer Dr. Arudra
If I were to describe my Guru in one word, it would be PERFECTIONIST. An affectionate and caring person otherwise, he was a hard taskmaster, ready to correct us countless times till we got it right. Early morning or late night, he would make us rehearse for hours, without him displaying any sign of exhaustion. Every nuance would have to be perfect, every movement graceful and fine. He would lay great emphasis on involvement, as opposed to just a set of mechanical movements. A fantastic performer, his choreography was matchless, never compromising on either aesthetics or technical brilliance.
Personally, he was a father figure and used to take such wonderful care of us whenever we toured across India and the globe. He happened to watch my Bharatanatyam performance and urged me to learn Kuchipudi, as he felt my countenance would lend itself better to this form which involved a lot of abhinaya. He also felt my being a Telugu girl would be of advantage in understanding and interpreting the lyrics. It is a matter of great pride to me that he trained me in the dance form, right from steps (adavus) to the challenging dance on the brass plate, all in a matter of 45 days! He would come home early in the morning and again late in the evening and made me give my Rangapravesham (for the Indian Fine Arts Society) for a program which was fixed earlier.
He always liked my performing the Balagopala Tharangam, Krishna Sabdam and Dasavatharam. He took great care in supervising my make-up for the central role of Sri Krishna in the dance drama 'Sri Krishna Parijatham' on my maiden tour of the US. However, he encouraged me to be a solo performer, as he felt I had the potential. Whenever my car was late in picking me up, he used to insist that I eat in his house itself. He took a great part in my marriage celebrations, in welcoming the groom's party and even in taking care of some odd jobs.
Once, while conducting my solo program in Tirupati, he got up from the orchestra group and ticked off a photographer, who he felt was distracting and disturbing by taking too many pictures from various angles. Such was his involvement and dedication. Truly a Guru with the golden touch, he could make sculptures out of stone. I am really fortunate to have been his direct disciple. My humble pranams are always due to him. As he has moved on to the higher worlds, I am sure Nataraja would be extremely happy to welcome one of His most beloved sons to witness His cosmic Thaandava…
After having undergone rigorous training in Bharatanatyam from Guru KJ Sarasa, Lakshmi had intensive tutelage in Kuchipudi from Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. She is today regarded as one of the outstanding exponents of Kuchipudi, feted for her exquisite abhinaya. Lakshmi is a Diploma holder in Kuchipudi and trains a handful of fervent aspirants who come to her from all parts of the world.
Very touching and succinct! I've seen Lakshmi's Kuchipudi and have been mesmerised by the way she has been able to present to the audience the complete essence of the Vempati baani. The world of arts is much poorer by his demise. Long live his legacy!
- Dr.Sujata Ramanathan (Aug 26, 2012)
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