Akhila Nerusu's Kuchipudi rangapravesam

July 27, 2011

Akhila Nerusu

Lakshmi Akhila Nerusu, the daughter of Satyanarayana and Padmaja Nerusu, successfully completed her Kuchipudi rangapravesam at Novi Middle School Auditorium, in Novi, MI on July 17, 2011.

The curtain opened to the traditional Kuchipudi invocation song, Vani Paraku. Akhila started her performance appropriately with Ganesa Kavutvam, a salute to Lord Ganesa, the remover of obstacles. The song was in the ragam Nattai and Adi talam. The next item was a tribute to Siva, the Lord of Dance, in the form of Adi Sankara's Sivashtakam, set in Mohana Ragam and Khandachapu talam. Akhila executed the complex Siva postures with poise and precision. The next item was one ripe with potential for some deep abhinaya, the famous javali of Dharmapuri Subbaraaya Ayyar, Parulanna Mata, in the ragam Kapi and rupaka talam. Akhila surprised me with her ability to bring up the deep and ever-shifting emotional moods of the heroine in this gem of a composition. Her depiction of cursing "the other woman" for putting enchantments on her man was particularly delightful. Both the moods and the gestures that pervade this javali seem very alien to children growing up in a western culture. However, Akhila seemed to have received very good training from her guru Sailaja Pullela and performed admirably. Each of the items performed clearly reflected the seven years of hard work and training invested by this young dancer under the meticulous guidance of her guru, a premier disciple of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. Sailaja Pullela runs Natya Tarangini Kuchipudi Academy in Canton, MI, where she trains aspiring dancers in Kuchipudi style of  dance.

The main item of the afternoon was Bhamakalapam. Kuchipudi, primarily being the form of Nritya Natakam, is fully brought to form in a drama. Sailaja had chosen a 45 minute long sequence from Bhama Kalapam which included Satyabhama's pravesa dharuvu, Bhama's dialogue with her confidante Madhavi, and concluded with Bhama writing a letter to her beloved Lord Srikrishna. Akhila performed the role of Satyabhama with aplomb. She was in character all through the sequence. Srinivasa Raju Dhenuvakonda ably supported Akhila in the role of Madhavi. Ananth Pullela provided the voice for Madhavi while Akhila spoke her dialogues herself. She deserves high praise for her vachika abhinaya. This sequence was a real treat to the audience, and I have no doubt, if Akhila continues to practice Kuchipudi, that she would mature into a very good dancer. Sailaja needs to be mentioned for her dedication and passion to bring out this unique and traditional piece in Kuchipudi repertoire.

Sailaja Pullela
After a brief intermission, Akhila returned to stage with Uthukkadu Venkatasubbaiah’s immortal Kalingamardhana krithi, Marakatha Manimaya Chela set to Aarabhi and Sankarabharanam and Adi talam. In this piece, Akhila showcased her agility and stamina, executing and holding statuesque postures as well as the complex jathis. For the neraval on the line "kanaka mani maya nupura charana," Akhila performed the plate dance, which drew high praise from the audience. This was followed by Annamacharya composition Okapari kokapari in the ragam Kharaharapriya and Adi talam. The rangapravesam concluded with a brisk thillana in Kunthalavarali (composition of M Balamuralikrishna) and Mangalam. These last two items were choreographed by Sailaja.

Sailaja awarded Akhila with the title ‘Natya Kaustubha’ and a certificate and plaque on her rangapravesam. It was very heartening to see full orchestral support provided by local musicians. As usual, Jeyasingham excelled in percussion and Sasidhar produced some marvelous melodies on his electric veena. They were joined by youthful talent of Aditya Sarvesh on flute and Prashanth Gururaja on violin. The music ensemble was led by the vocals of Suryalakshmi Rudrabhatla who happens to be Sailaja's mother. Sailaja Pullela conducted the nattuvangam. All in all, it was a memorable performance by a young dancer of great promise deserving of her illustrious guru.

Sailaja deserves high praise for conducting the program in an aesthetically pleasing form, without any loose ends. All the arrangements on stage and off stage were very good. Hard to believe that this is the first Kuchipudi rangapravesam conducted by her.