Kuchipudi celebrates
- Sreelakshmy Govardhanan
e-mail: shreelaxmy@yahoo.co.in

April 23, 2011

Tanisha Yuva Utsav 2011 organized by the Akhila Bharata Kuchipudi Natya Kala Mandali, Kuchipudi, and Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai, from 14th to 21st of March 2011 at Kuchipudi Village was indeed a cultural extravaganza. Under the heedful eyes of Pasumarthy Keshav Prasad and Venkat Vempati, this 8 day long festival was held in the auspicious premises of Sri Ramalingeswara Temple.

The festival was blessed with the presence of Guru Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma for all the 8 days. His anecdotes on experiences and incidents from his glorious art life which he delivered each day left the audience spellbound. The cheerful presence of Vedantam Radheshyam throughout the festival was an added highlight. The festival witnessed some serious talents, some average performances and a few substandard performances as well. However, by the end of the festival what one would reckon for sure was the delightful air, replete with dance and music. The rest of it, who performed well and who did not, would've bothered no one. The festival held that magic!
Akhila Takkallapalli, student of Guru Bala Kondala Rao commenced the festival with "Maha Ganapathim Manasa Smarami," an ideal beginning for the festival. The second performer of the inaugural day was the amazing talent from Bhubaneswar. Lingaraj Pradhan kept the audience spellbound throughout his Odissi performance. The Pallavi performed by him proved his hard work, sense of rhythm and an amazing control over body movements, while the choreographic piece on the life of Karna proved his authority in subtle abhinaya. Bharatanatyam dancer Vasanth Kiran from Bengaluru performed the Swathi Tirunal krithi "Bhavayami Raghu Ramam." The final performance of the day was "Baktha Prahlada," a Kuchipudi Yakshagana. Watching the ensemble, we realize how rich, vast and fascinating are the compositions and choreography of Yakshagana, the ancient dance-drama, authored, composed and choreographed by the illustrious souls of our great past. Executing it properly is a task in itself. Vedantam Venkatachalapathi, the promising artist from the traditional family of Kuchipudi proved truly eligible of his celebrated legacy and soared high to reach the steep expectations laid on him. He ruled the stage as Hiranyakashipu. Youngsters from the Kuchipudi village adorned the other roles of the natakam. As flag bearers to an age-old art form, they hold a huge responsibility on their shoulders that would require them to rise to fulfill a mighty task which demands tremendous dedication and hard work. Pasumarthy Rattaiah Sarma and Chinta Ravi Balakrishna acted as Sutradhars. It was amazing to watch the life and energy imparted by Pasumarthy Rattaiah Sarma to the drama through his singing, despite the frailty of his old age. The inaugural day indeed gifted the audience a rich slice of the diverse art forms of India.
Lingraj Pradhan
Vedantam Venkatachalapathi
The second day of Tanisha Yuva Utsav commenced as a total celebration of dance from Dr. Meernanda Barthakur from Guwahati performing Sattriya. She had total control over the leaps, turns and postures she created. The final piece which portrayed the role of Yashoda trying to feed crying baby Krishna proved her ability to get into the soul of the character she played. In short, it was a genuine, emotive performance from Meernanda.

The second performance was by students of Veena Murthy Vijay. Suhasini Shetty, Shama Krishna and Soorya Rao gave a neat performance representing Sri Rajarajeswari Kalaniketan Bengaluru. Among the three, remarkable was that of the youngest Suhasini Shetty who performed Brahmanjali and "Bala Kanakamaya chela" convincingly. Her feel for the art form oozed of grace throughout the performance. Shama Krishna performed a Purandaradas Kirtana in Tarangam format and Sandhya Tandavam. She had an arresting stage presence. Both items were choreographed in fast pace including Karanas and Charis. Soorya Rao performed a short version of Bhama Kalapam, indeed a beautiful looking Bhama.
Meernanda Barthakur
Mandap Prabhakar
Mrutyunjaya, the youngest son of Pasumarthy Keshav Prasad presented Natesha Koutham followed by Annamacharya Krithi. His energy and enthusiasm was proof of his zeal when performing. The same excitement, however, made him a bit unsteady on his turns and postures amidst the rendition. The second day also had Soumya performing two items of Annamacharya and saint Thyagaraja. The next performances were by the students of Venkatachalapathi. Poojitha, the youngest participant of festival gave a neat performance and Ravali performed "Samaravaram Devam." Venkatachalapathi ended the program with Adhyatma Ramayana Kirtanam that depicts "Sita Apaharanam."

The third day of the festival started with the prelims of the documentary made by Dulam Satyanarayana based on life of Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma. The first performance of the day was by Samskriti Chatterjee from Mumbai. The artiste began the recital with "Gaja Vadana beduve" and ended with Tarangam. She was at her best in the Ashtapadi. If the artiste had imparted more energy into the performance that would have added an extra charm as she is already blessed with a graceful face. Koka Vijayalakshmy and her team presented items based on the poems of the great poet Srirangam Srinivas Rao. Giving visual interpretation to Sri Sri's poems was an appreciable effort. The next performance was by the students of Pasumarthy Srinivas. Pasumarthy Pavithra and Thotta Venketa Nirmala gave a fairly neat presentation. But one who stole the show was Pasumarthy Pavani for her beautiful rendition of the songs, especially the way she sang Kalinga Narthanam.

The highlight of 16th of March was by none other than the maestro in Karnataka Eka Vyakthi Yakhshagana, Mandap Prabhakar. His skill in abhinaya appeals to connoisseurs and laymen alike. He was an embodiment of acting skills. Improvisation and the use of the stage as well as its 'premises' was watched by the audience with awe. As an honor to his artistry, he received a standing ovation and not just that, a public request asking him to perform next day as well.

The fourth day of the fete started with a superlative performance by Mandap Prabhakar again. He was felicitated by none other than Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma, who was the epitome of sthree vesham in Kuchipudi Yakshagana. Mandap's marvelous performance was followed by that of Koka Vijayalakshmy, KV Subrahmaniam and Bharani who presented a few items in Kuchipudi. The third artist of the evening was Probal Gupta from Bengaluru performing Kathakali. His love and dedication towards the art form is remarkable. When everything is made available in capsule format and Kathakali outside Kerala has grievously become a commodified fancy art form, it is certainly praiseworthy that he travels from Bengaluru to Kerala regularly and learns the art under Guru FACT Padmanabhan. The first item he presented was a padam from Duryodana Vadham. The sthayi bhava, shokam of Draupadi was kept intact. The second item he performed was 'Lalitha' from Narakasura Vadham. Sambhoga sringara was the key emotion portrayed in that. It would have been a pleasant ending if the expressions in the last portion had been a little more mild and subdued. On the whole, Probal was good in Kathakali sthree vesham.

The final performance of the evening was from Sri Rajarajeswari Kalaniketan, Bengaluru. 'Vijayavilasam' Yakshagana was a complete dance and music fiesta. Each one handled their respective roles with élan. Vedantham Venkatachalapathi as Arjuna was a treat for the eyes. The role of Ullupi done by Shama Krishna was splendid, given her overpowering beauty onstage. Mandap Prabhakar adorned the role of Chitrangadha Devi. Venkatachalapathi and Mandap made a good pair on the stage. The essence of both Kuchipudi Yakshagana and Karnataka Yakshagana were well maintained by both artistes. Subadra was safe in the hands of Veena Murthy Vijay and Krishnamurthy Thunga excelled as Arjuna in sanyasi vesha in the Karnataka Yakshagana format. This portion had some interesting elements such as the conversation between Subadra and Arjuna. It would be apt to conclude that the fourth day added another golden laurel to the Utsav with the magnificent 'Vijayavilasam.'

The 18th of March started with a neat performance in Kuchipudi by Lalitha Sinduri. The second performance of the day was by Vijay Pal who was totally unprofessional performing to a string of edited popular songs readily available in the market. Followed by this show was Kondapalli Tejaswi who gave a decent Kuchipudi performance barring the bad recorded music she relied on. The fourth performance was by Bhagavatula Sethuram's group presenting 'Lakshmana Rekha.' The idea of the production was good as it was quite vocal about the negligence towards women and their need to be respected. But the group seemed to be less rehearsed which resulted in poor coordination among the dancers. Final performance of the day was 'Narayaneeyam,' a Kuchipudi dance drama put forth by Ajay Kumar. Around 40 of his pupils performed in the drama and they all did fairly good work.
Ajay Kumar
Basu Singh
The sixth day of the festival started with Pasumarthy Seshababu's team. Sai Deepika commenced the program with Ardhanareeswara Stuthi. The Nuti brothers Mallikarjuna Nuti and Sathya Narayana Nuti performed Swara Jathi and Shambho Shiva Shambho respectively. This was followed by a Bharatanatyam recital by Neelima Satyanand from Vizag. The last performance of the day was by Bala Kondala Rao's students. The group presented an interesting choreography on the Developments of India other than an item on Ramayana and Lord Shiva.

The 20th of March started with an elegant Bharatanatyam performance by Priya Raman. She started with a Mallari followed by Shankarabharanam Varnam and ended with a Padam. She did justice to the art form she presented in an effortless and composed manner. Kudos!

The Mohiniattam representation in the festival did not go that well. Rasidhava from Pune began her performance with Cholkettu and then moved on to a Varnam in ragam Vallachi. Next was a Bharatanatyam recital by Ratheesh Babu from Pune. It was interesting to note that one who stole the show however was not the dancer, but the singer Swetha Prasad. She glued the audience to their seats with her captivating singing. For the Ashtapadi performed by Ratheesh Babu, the way Swetha rendered "Priye Charusheele" transported the audience to bliss. The last performance of the evening was by Shruthakirthi performing Annamacharya krithis.

The final day of the festival commenced with a group presentation by Halim Khan. He performed for ghazals of Tanisha as a tribute to the festival. I could not really follow which medium of dance he used, though I could recognize a few moves of Kathak and Kuchipudi here and there. But his expressions were genuine and subtle. He seemed to enjoy his performance. The second performance was by Ponnur Kranthi Kiran, followed by Aswathi Nair's Mohiniattam, which again was a sad representation of Mohiniattam. Student of Ratheesh Babu, Epshitha Das's Bharatanatyam recital displayed good sense of rhythm, stamina and neat expressions. She handled the tough jathis of Vallachi varnam with ease. The only Manipuri representation in the festival was by Basu Singh from Imphal. He started with Guru Vandana and then moved on to depict the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Pramod Kumar gave a grand ending to Tanisha Yuva Utsav with his Bharatanatyam recital.

The festival had many touching moments, but the one that moved all of us was felicitating Bala Venkatarama Krishnaiah, eldest son of Pasumarthy Keshava Prasad. Krishnaiah was the silent force behind all the activities that happened in Kuchipudi village; one man who would do any work with sheer perfection and no complaints. All the youngsters and seniors of Kuchipudi village present there garlanded him. He sat mutely, not hearing the thunderous applause the audience poured on him.

Tanisha Yuva Utsav thus came to an end, opening a space to up and coming artistes, a blessed venue for all the established artists and an unforgettable experience for all those who witnessed the 8 blissful days of this cultural gala.

Sreelakshmy Govardhanan, disciple of Pasumarthy Rattaiah Sarma, is a Kuchipudi performer from Kerala. She is the artistic director of Avanthika Space for Dance, a charitable trust for the promotion of dance and related art forms. She is also a counselling psychologist.