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Giving Krishna a run

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PREVIEW T. Reddi Lakshmi performs a Kuchipudi recital this Wednesday based on stories of Krishna

NayikaT. Reddi Lakshmi
NayikaT. Reddi Lakshmi

For most city-bred educated girls, gone are the days when they sat demurely waiting to be told what to do by their elders, especially to be guided at every step by a father, a husband, a son. Yet the popularity of India’s classical dance forms, traditions that have made an elaborate study of the woman in love, in many ways dependent on the man or nayaka in her life, is relatively high as a hobby among these same urban educated youngsters.

Ask young Kuchipudi exponent T. Reddi Lakshmi — who performs this coming Wednesday at the India International Centre — which of the ashta nayikas or classical heroine categories depicting a woman in love she prefers to perform, and she has no hesitation in choosing Khandita. “It doesn’t take time for me to get angry,” she says.

Khandita is the angry one, no longer ready to tolerate the transgressions of the hero. So if it is Krishna who has been sporting with the gopis without giving special preference to Radha, then Radha, at the end of her tether, finally tells him to go away and be content with that ‘other woman’, she of beautiful eyes, lustrous hair and warm sighs.

Among the most famous poems from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda , “Yahi Madhava”, which depicts Radha in this vein, will be one of the songs performed by Lakshmi at the recital, titled “Krishnam Smaranam”.

But it is not all about anger and wounded pride. The recital includes a number of new pieces, all composed by her gurus, eminent Kuchipudi exponents Jayarama Rao and Vanashree Rao, that look at Krishna’s different aspects and are woven into the conventional Kuchipudi repertoire.

These include “Swagatam Krishna” in which the dancer depicts by turns two characters: the devotee and the deity, Krishna. “One is writing the song and the other is Krishna in the temple,” explains Guru Vanashree.

Then there is the eternal devotee Meera in “Main to Saware ke Rang Rachi”. The popular tarangam, in which the dancer performs footwork on a brass plate, is woven into verses by Narayana Tirtha Yati, the yogi whose verses form the basis for a large number of Kuchipudi dance compositions.

The recital culminates with a tillana composed by Sudha Raghuraman in Vrindavana Sarang. “It too is about Krishna. It has an abhang attached as the sahitya (lyrics) part,” says Vanashree.

Vanashree has also designed the costume for Lakshmi. It is a combination of peacock blue and gold, using some antique zari along with new material.

Lakshmi, who began learning dance in school in Andhra Pradesh, took up Kuchipudi in earnest when she moved to Delhi. First trained under Gurus Seetha and Nagajyothi, she later came under the tutelage of the Rama Raos. “Dance is my first priority I am just working to be able to sustain my dance,” says Lakshmi who hopes to be able to quit her corporate career and plunge full time into dance when financially stable. “I am always discussing with Guruji how I can remain in the field.”

India International Centre, April 10, 6.30 p.m.

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