The Kuchipudi maestro speaks on the art.
Born into a family of Kuchipudi dancers, Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry choreographed his first Yakshagana performance at age 13. “It was titled ‘Bhu Kailasam’. I did it with my friends. I was in the lead role of Ravan in it, which was greatly appreciated by Kulapathi Vempati Peda Satyam Garu and Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma Garu. My journey in dance is all due to them,” recalls a grateful Ramalinga Sastry. The ace Kuchipudi dancer and scholar accorded with Sangeet Natak Akademi award recently, calls himself lucky to have also learned dance from Vedantam Parvatheesam and Guru Vedantham Radheshyam, his elder brother. “I polished my style under the great guru of Kuchipudi, Vempati Chinna Satyam,” he adds.
Sastry, who says the SNA Award 2012 “is a dream come true”, has written and choreographed performances in all the prakriyas of Kuchipudi and has a special liking for Yakshagana. He explains the relation between Yakshagana and Kuchipudi. “Kuchipudi started from Samskrutha roopakam and in the 13th Century, Kalaapam was started by Saint Siddhendra Yogi. The inspiration for Kalaapam, ‘Yakshaganam’ was scripted by Kandukuri Rudra Kavi named Sugreeva Vijayam, which was useful in the performance of Kuchipudi bhagavathas from which Yakshaganam was adopted.”Through a range of questions here, Sastry explains the nuances of Kuchipudi and the greats that added shine to the dance form.
Who according to you are legends of Kuchipudi and why?
All my gurus and Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry Garu,Vedantam Raghavayya, Pasumarthy Krishna Murthy, Chinta Krishna Murthy, Mahankali Satyanarayana, are legends of Kuchipudi. They gave their lifetime to the dance form. Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry Garu is known for creating Ekapatrakelika and was the first to teach Kuchipudi to female dancers. No one can replace Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma Garu in Sthri Vesham. Chinta Krishna Murthy Garu as Suthradhara is without a parallel. Vempati Peda Satyam Garu, Vedantam Raghavayya Garu, Pasumarthy Krishna Murthygaru ruled Telugu cinema industry with traditional Kuchipudi. Mahankali Satyanarayana Garu created history with his characterisation of Hiranyakasipa.
What secular and non-secular subject matters are followed in Kuchipudi?
Kelika is used for secular subjects. Kuchipudi deals mainly with religious themes and relies on the philosophy of jeevatma’s desire to merge with parmatma.
What would you call your contributions to the dance form?
I have researched on Kuchipudi history and divided the dance eras like Prak Siddhendra Yugam ; Siddhendra Yugam; Kelika Yugam; Nruthya Naataka Yugam; Yakshagaana Yugam; Bhagavathula Ramayya Yugam; Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sasty Yugam and Vempati China Satyam Yugam. And I have defined every aspect of the form besides delineating the aims and objectives of all the prakriyas. I have written about 80 dance dramas in all methods of prakriyas.
Have you choreographed contemporary themes?
In 1986, I created a form named “Kelika”, which is used in contemporary themes. I was inspired by the “Sammeta Guravaraju Charitha”, an ancient story of the 14th Century. I have also written more than 30 Naathi Chera, Raithe Raju, etc.
What is your advice to upcoming dancers?
An artiste should not live on art, they should live for art.