GUDIPOODI SRIHARI

The Perini Institute in Warangal promises to fulfil the dream of Nataraja Ramakrishna who is trying to revive this dance form.

At one time all the three dance forms survived as separate entities.

In this land of Telugus, classical dance forms developed at different places. While Kuchipudi was being practiced by Brahmins at their village of the same name, there existed the Devadasi dance system in other parts of princely states, mostly in coastal belt of Andhra.

The dances were restricted to royal courts and temples. The Tandava dance art form ‘Perini’ was being practiced in Kakatiya kingdom with Orugallu (Warangal) as its capital, since the days of Rani Rudramma Devi of eleventh century.

This latter form was originally known as ‘Prerana’ dance, then transformed into ‘Perini’, the reference to which can be found in Jayapasena’s Nritta Ratnavali. Jayapasena of that period was chieftain in the army and yet was a great scholar in Sanskrit. Today, only Kuchipudi dance art has become popular, while other dance forms have taken a seat.

Male dance art

In Orugallu kingdom, men belonging to Veera Saiva sect, practiced the art of Perini. Kakatiyas were Saivaites.

Their Perini dance form was a virile male dance art, reflective of Lord Siva’s tandavam. Nataraja Ramakrishna who revived this art form laments that the difference between tandava dance and lasya dance got diminished over a period.

Kuchipudi, on the other hand, once presented only by male artistes, gained momentum with Lakshminarayana Sastry creating a solo art form, eking out some of the numbers from their dance dramas and adding them to the Kuchipudi solo repertoire. He added a few varnams too which were said to be not there earlier in Kuchipudi. These solos helped female dancers in Andhra too to take to this art, particularly after the central government gave Kuchipudi the status of national dance.

At one time all the three dance forms survived as separate entities.

But this triangular picture of Devadasi dance, practiced by women, Kuchipudi by men and the virile form of Perini dance of Orugallu is almost forgotten. At this juncture Nataraja Ramakrishna, toured these parts of the state and collected whatever material was available. Annabathula Bulivenkataratnam, a stalwart in Devadasi classical system was one among them. He invited a number of artistes practicing them to perform at a huge festival held at Hyderabad, under the auspices of state Dance Academy, which Ramakrishna was heading then. He named his collection as ‘Andhra Natyam’ and struggled hard all these years to bring the Andhra Natyam and Perini into mainstream and get proper recognition.

Meanwhile Telugu University came into existence and the work of the academies was absorbed into it.

With persistent efforts of Narataraja Ramakrishna, the University added Andhra Natyam as a course in the university syllabus. But Ramakrishna is sad that these styles are not properly projected and areaccorded step-motherly treatment, compared to Kuchipudi.

However, things appeared to have taken a hopeful turn with the advent of holding a huge Andhra Natyam festival at Warangal a couple of years ago under the aegis of Telugu University.

This again brought into focus the potential of these rich forms. With the initiative taken by some art loving Telangana leaders, an institute to teach Perini was established in Warangal in the campus of Pothana Vignana Mandiram. Besides giving a voluminous syllabus, Ramakrishna gave away his costumes and other material including a drum used for Drupad Bani percussion, suitable for Perini dance, to the University. There are some descendents of the artistes of the past in coastal Andhra who inherited the art and its grammar from stalwarts like Bulivenkataratnam, a celebrity among them.

“Only the government can do it,” says Ramakrishna, “I have provided them (the university) syllabus written with scientific approach adding all the jati formats. I had also streamlined ways to develop Andhra Natyam into an active performing art. It is time Telugu University takes a serious look.”