Life becomes a challenge for a child whose parents are illustrious artistes as society expects them to rise up to the levels of excellence of their parents. But for Prateeksha Kashi, daughter of Kannada actor Vijay Kashi and Kuchipudi maestro Vyjayanti Kashi, it was not the challenge but her innate talent that helped her carve a niche in dance and theatre. Scintillating has been her performances on the stage. As a teacher, she grooms young talents in the main branch of her mother’s institution – Shambhavi School of Dance at Koramangala, Bangalore. Her portrayal of Draupadi in the play ‘Mathana’ and the lead role as Akkama Devi in the telefilm ‘Hejje Guruth’ vouch for her inimitable histrionic prowess. Recently, she was has been entrusted with the choreography of the teachings of philosopher J. Krishnamurthy, in Kuchipudi style for a multimedia production titled ‘Essence of Life’, a brainchild of film producer Dega Dev Kumar Reddy.
The young dancer, who was recently in Thrissur, spoke at length about her career as a dancer and also about her life’s mission. Excerpts from an interview:
Dance begins from the womb
I can claim I started dancing even before my birth. My mother told me that whenever she performed ‘Aigiri Nandini’, a composition on Devi Mahishasura Mardini, I, in her womb, used to respond! Now I realise why I am so fond of all items on Devi. As a child, I was not keen on dance though I was exposed to it regularly at home. But the art got into my mind even without my knowledge thanks to this continuous exposure. Once I was watching Ramana Maharshi’s ‘Ambe’, a group production by my mother. As the performance progressed, I could not sit still on my father’s lap. I jumped on to the stage and danced along with the group to the surprise of my parents and the audience. I knew every dialogue and movements in that choreography. I was only five years old then. That was the first performance on stage!
There was no pressure from my parents to take to dance. I started attending mother’s classes at the age of seven, because I felt like doing so. According to my mother, I was the most undisciplined student in her class. She was mother only at home; but was a strict disciplinarian in class. The training was formal and I was only one among her many students. Teaching was in the gurukul system. Gradually, I was also included in the group shows and this experience honed my talent.
In school and college
During my schooldays, I participated in many dance events and in college while doing my pre-university course, I led the ‘Indian Dance Wing’ and fetched many laurels for the institution.In Karnataka we don’t have youth festivals as in Kerala.
Into the world of performances
Yamini Krishnamurthy was the chief guest for my arangettam, which was a solo kutcheri. Many performances in different festivals in Karnataka apart, I remember my first solo outside the state was in Aurangabad, which was organised by Parvathy Dutta. It was well-received and catapulted me to the national scenario. I did major roles in choreographies on women such as Ambe, Sita and Renuka. It was Lalitha Srinivasan who suggested that my mother and I do mother-daughter duets. That was a turning point. Quite a lot of them are taking place now. ‘Ardhanareeswara’, ‘Paahi Paahi tarangam’ and ‘Kubja’ (in which mother acted as Kubja and I, Krishna) are worth mentioning. All received rave reviews from critics both in India and abroad.
Kuchipudi originated as a group performance. So when the solo form emerged, the pressure on the dancer was more as the dancer had to delineate different characters and varied moods. My experiments are focussed on the characters and themes in a way that can reach the people.But I have taken care to see that these experimentations never transgress the borders of the original format. Any form of art is dynamic and therefore changes are natural and inevitable. Also my mission is to spread this form of dance as far as I can. Performances apart, I have done workshops in Europe and in the United States that have been well attended.
I stood first in the final competitions held in New York by Pt. Jasraj’s Foundation, the audition for which was in Mumbai. There was no classification of dances. The audience themselves were the judges.