Dancers Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi on the bond the mother-daughter duo shares on and off the stage

Kuchipudi dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi with her daughter Prateeksha Kashi

Kuchipudi dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi with her daughter Prateeksha Kashi   | Photo Credit: AM Faruqui


The duo walks down memory lane to offer insights into their personalities, approach to work and a critical appraisal of the other as a Kuchipudi artiste

Vyjayanthi Kashi and Prateeksha Kashi share a relationship that has many facets: guru and shishya, co-performers on stage and mother and daughter. When Prateeksha performed a Kuchipudi solo at the Soorya Festival in the Parampara series, where young dancers pay their tribute to their gurus, and Vyjayanthi did the nattuvangam for the performance, it was as if the guru-mother was cheering her shishya-daughter for keeping the parampara — the tradition — alive.

A free-flowing conversation with the duo was not only a walk down memory lane but also offered insights into their personalities, approach to work and a critical appraisal of the other as a Kuchipudi artiste.

Vyjayanthi took up Kuchipudi at a time when the training in and the practice of the dance form was confined mainly to Andhraites. The dancer, who had learnt Bharatanatyam, wanted to pursue a different dance field. Taking inspiration from an aunt who had pursued Odissi, Vyjayanthi decided to learn the dance form. She later decided to train under Kuchipudi Guru CR Acharya after watching him perform Chitra Natyam.

“He used to call me his dancing daughter!” says Vyjayanthi with a laugh, as she remembers the gurus who moulded her — Ramanna, Vedantam Prahlada Sarma, Korada Narasimha Rao, Satyanarayana Sarma and Vempatti Chinnasatyam among others.

For Prateeksha, it was a different story. She had been watching and absorbing dance at her home. However, when it came to learning a dance form, her mother left the choice to her — and her choice was Odissi! “But I found it too difficult to learn; the teacher was strict and irregular. So I decided to give it a miss,” says Prateeksha, who went back to Kuchipudi.

Although at first she was playful and naughty during her classes, seeing more of her mother in the Guru, she matured into the role of a serious student over the years.

Vyjayanthi Kashi and daughter Prateeksha Kashi

Vyjayanthi Kashi and daughter Prateeksha Kashi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Now, as a name to watch out for, how does Prateeksha see herself? “I am still trying to absorb as much as possible from my mother. While planning a new production, she always seeks my views and lets me experiment. At the moment, I am happy to just take inspiration from her work. She is overseeing my work until I get a firm foothold, when I can venture on my own,” says Prateeksha.

Vyjayanthi has created unique productions that feature the mother-daughter duo. One of them, based on the colour red, was presented recently in the US and Canada. “Red evokes different emotions”’ says Prateeksha, elaborating on the theme. “The red bindi and the dress of the bride evoke shringara, while for little Prahlada, the red blood gushing out of Hiranyakashyap, killed by Narasimha, create fear, bhayanaka. Thus, for the presentation, we linked red to the navarasas.”

‘Antaranga tharanga’ is a production based on the theme of motherly love. With Sita and her mother, Bhoomi Devi, as the main characters, this dance takes on another hue altogether when performed by the mother and the daughter.

Performing together

So, what is it like to perform together on stage? There is tremendous synergy, agrees the duo. “Sometimes, I notice Prateeksha emoting in new ways that come as a delightful surprise,” says Vyjayanthi, adding that each student has her/his own unique way of expressing a bhava.

The aspect that she admires most in her daughter is the lasya in her dance. “This is perhaps because she has a female guru, whereas I have been trained mostly by male gurus and the thandava comes easily to me,” says Vyjayanthi. She goes on to say that she loves her daughter’s subtlety and the nuances she gives to her expressions.

Prateeksha, on her part, admires her mother’s spontaneity that sometimes challenges her when she performs alongside. She also appreciates Vyjayanthi’s involvement with any character, right from when a production is conceptualised. “She will be pondering, getting several versions of the script and accepting it only when it reflects exactly what she wants to convey,” says Prateeksha.

One notices the element of spirituality and philosophical insights that Vyjayanthi imparts to her productions. “It comes from my experience. Besides, the very purpose of art is to convey the sattva, the virtue and goodness. Without sattva, there is no dance. What I try to do is to take a spiritual subject and interpret it in a contemporary manner to reach out to the audience,” concludes Vyjayanthi.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 10:44:14 AM |

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