From Natya Tarangini’s new home in New Delhi, Kuchipudi veteran Raja Reddy looks out at the world as one family.
This year as Raja and Radha Reddy prepare for their annual Parampara National Festival of Dance and Music, there is more than the usual flurry that precedes an event of such proportions featuring leading performers of the country. This is the first time they are working out of their new premises, the grand new home of their institute Natya Tarangini. The move was accomplished about a month ago, thought the formal inauguration remains to be done. It has been a long road for the Reddys, who came to New Delhi as young unknown dancers of a relatively unfamiliar form and embraced the opportunities offered by the Capital with aplomb.
Raja Reddy sums up his journey metaphorically and literally: “I went from Narasapuram village, to Hyderabad, and from there I came to the Capital of the country.” It hasn’t been easy, he notes, even as he proudly talks of the new building that has a basement and several floors — whose size and cost escalated because the family “got greedy”, wanting to offer more facilities, such as a hostel for out-of-town students and quarters for the faculty.
The institute, says Reddy, is for Indian arts, though Kuchipudi is closest to the heart of the family, a family whose members, he points out, have been serving the dance form nearly all their lives.
“My daughter is a very beautiful dancer but her interest is in Jazz music,” he remarks about his younger daughter Bhavana. She has recently completed her musical training at an institute in Hollywood, and though he hopes to have her back in the not too distant future teaching music at Natya Tarangini, for the moment he has let her explore her own interests. “Aeons ago, our ancients formulated the concept of ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ (the world is one family), and it is the parents’ duty to fulfil their children’s ambitions,” he says. His recent visit to the U.S. to see his daughter receive her diploma also brought home to him once more the discipline in teaching the arts in Western countries.
“You learn so much from different countries,” he muses. And India may be known for art and culture, but, “We sit in our houses and take class.”
Still, “ghar mein baith ke” he and Radha have certainly become names to reckon with, both as performers and teachers, and now their four-storey building too speaks for them.
And if the going has been tough it has certainly been joyful too, he points out. That is why this year’s Parampara festival is called “Natyanandanam”, or the joy of natya. “Natyam,” he explains, “is the combination of dance, literature and music.”
Among the highlights of the festival that begins this Sunday is the Reddy’s new dance drama “Sparsha”. This interesting concept takes the sense of touch beyond the five senses “almost as a sixth sense” by focusing on the mystical and spiritual ways in which it appears in Hindu mythology.
“Lord Brahma has Saraswati on his tongue, and on Vishnu’s vakshasthal (chest) is Lakshmi, and Shiva’s ardhangini (half his body) is Parvati Devi,” he says. Quoting the scholar Vedavyasa Ranga Bather, he says, “It is synonymous with the doctrine tat tvam asi.”
In his treatment, though, Reddy has also shown images of human touch, right from the womb when the child learns through being a part of the mother’s body, through growing up and marriage, when romantic love brings another dimension to a woman’s touch.
The festival could have featured a duet by Raja and Radha Reddy, but they felt it was important to bring their students forward, says the maestro.
Parampara Festival ‘Natyanandanam’ September 29
“Sparsha” by Raja-Radha Reddy and troupe; Carnatic vocal by Ranjani and Gayatri
September 30 – Bharatanatyam by Malavika Sarukkai; Santoor by Satish Vyas
October 1 – Contemporary Dance by Astad Deboo; Hindustani vocal by Venkateshkumar
Kamani auditorium, 6.30 p.m.