The enticing ‘Bhamakalapam' and ‘Gollakalapam' performances delighted one and all.

The tall and well built, yet feminine Satyabhama in all her regalia of the Toorpu Bhagavatam tradition, befitting her status of King Satrajit's daughter and Krishna's spouse, endeared herself to all, in the auditorium. She fleeted through a variety of emotions: a woman proud of her birth to a rich king, a woman suffering pangs of love on separation from her Lord, a woman in an inane disagreement with her husband and a woman of wisdom in complete surrender to the Lord.

The myriad states portrayed by the maestro Yerra Suryanarayana as Satyabhama, mesmerised the dance aficionados at the recent International Symposium on Kalapa Traditions organised jointly by the Department of Dance, Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad and the Emory University, USA.

The flawless rendition of the prose and song components of the Toorpu Bhagavatam interspersed with excellent percussion interludes and the high pitch, operatic singing constituted a classy performance. Yerra Suryanarayana's family consisting of his brothers and children, who are tailors by profession, provided excellent support on percussion and in the supporting roles of Vidushaka, Rukmini and the chorus. The maestro, however, is not optimistic about the survival of the tradition, as pursuing it is no longer financially viable for them.

The ‘Kalapam' is an interesting composition with an assortment of songs and dialogue, dramatically enacted by a main character, assisted by one or more supporting characters. Usually, the loosely-based story focuses on a single incident which conveys the message chosen, by dwelling on the various psychological and social nuances of the characters. ‘Kalapam' is performed in various genres, from the folk theatre forms to the temple and the classical dance traditions.

The symposium was designed to focus on the Bhamakalapam and Gollakalapam as practiced in the traditions of Kuchipudi, Lasya Nartanam of Konaseema, Toorpu Bhagavatam and Andhra Natyam and facilitated valuable documentation, understanding of the text and training system and also brought to fore the performance aspects of the hitherto marginalised traditions. Renowned scholars like Nataraja Ramakrishna, M.N. Nagabhushana Sarma, Betavolu Ramabrahmam, Bhagavatula Lakshmi Narasimham, Vedantam Ramalinga Sastri, Anuradha Jonnalagadda and G B Shankar Rao elaborated on the various academic and theoretical aspects of the ‘Kalapam' in the seminar sessions attended by art lovers, students and scholars of dance.

Witty repartees

The Gollakalapam by Annabattula Mangatayaru of Mummidivaram and her disciples charmed the spectators with the witty repartees of the Gollabhama (girl from a shepherd community) and the Vipra (a Brahmin) who engage in an argument whereby a discourse on spiritual truths unfolds and the ultimate goal of human life, to attain moksha, is stressed upon. In their tradition of Lasya Nartanam, Tarigonda Vengamamba's script of Gollakalapam is performed, as devised by Atkuri Subbarayudu of the early 20th century who passed it on to Annabattula Buli Venkata Ratnamma. Her grand-daughters, the Annabattula sisters, have kept alive the legacy and are grooming yet another generation of performers.

The spectators' repeated applause drew one's attention to the fact that the seemingly less classical and lesser known forms can also provide wholesome entertainment to the contemporary spectators; they only need to be staged frequently, to be seen more often by more people.

The Bhamakalapam performance in the classical Kuchipudi tradition by Vedantam Venkatanagachalapati Rao was neat and virtuous. However, the dancer could have brought greater finesse to the impersonation of Satyabhama by avoiding the masculine vigour in dance. The portrayal of Satyabhama in the tradition of Navajanardhanam was refined and immaculate in the skilful female impersonation by Kalakrishna. The rarely seen Gollakalapam in Kuchipudi tradition was presented by Vedantam Radheyshyam and his son and disciple, Vedantam Siddhendra.

Some of these delightful Kalapa traditions of Andhra Pradesh would have been on the verge of extinction but for the admirable efforts of a handful of dedicated artistes against all odds, who valiantly nurture their love for the fading arts despite receiving little or no support or recognition from any of the government or other cultural bodies. This, in fact, underscores the relevance of the symposium on Kalapa traditions and the organisers deserve appreciation for their initiative to contribute towards safeguarding of our heritage.