‘Kuchipudi is the very purpose of my existence’

Sreelakshmi Govardhan. Photo: K. K. Najeeb   | Photo Credit: K.K. Najeeb

In the firmament of Indian classical dances, Sreelakshmi Govardhan is an oddity. As a child with a prodigious flair for dance, she, however, disliked reproducing what her teachers taught.

The winner of various Kalathilakam titles at the school and university festivals, she was haunted by an inner voice asking to explore more even after seven years of training under Kuchipudi maestros in Bangalore. Finally, she found her mentor at the Kuchipudi village. The mentor has been grooming her for the last six years. She is the first recipient of the Sri Jayadeva Rashtriya Yuva Puraskar for Kuchipudi. It is perhaps for the first time that a Malayali is winning a national award for Kuchipudi. She says: “Kuchipudi is the very purpose of my existence”.

A post-graduate in Psychology from Bangalore University, Sreelakshmi related her saga of getting at the roots of the dance form. Excerpts from the interview:

How did you discover your mentor?

A perennial search for a surviving exponent of the traditional Kuchipudi Yakshagana took me to the septuagenarian Guru Pasumarti Rattaiha Sarma in the Kuchipudi village. The communication between us was through an amalgam of ‘vachika’ and ‘aangika’, but it was effective. The traditional art survives today through a few families in the village. My Guru hails from the Pasumarti family. His very first feat of salutation proved that the style was entirely different from what I had been practising all these years. Being a theatre form, all the characters with their ‘dhruva’ (entry), dialogues, dance movements and so on had to be mastered. I have already completed ‘Bhamakalapam’ play. Every artiste in the Kuchipudi village dreams of portraying the role of Satyabhama in this play at least once in his/her life time.

As for the nritta part, feats like tarangam from Krishnaleelatharangani appear during the course of the play. Here, the adavus are very forceful. The mudras, which smack of a regional flavour, are still found in Natyasastra and Abhinayadarpana.

What are your plans?

I am doing my post-graduation in Kuchipudi at the Telugu University. The university campus Siddhendra Yogi Kalapeedham is adjacent to my Guru’s residence. A lot of ideas spring to my mind not only through my Guru but also through reading, interactions with eminent scholars and artistes whom I meet in the national festivals.

I feel that a total surrender of the self to the Ultimate is the essence of the philosophy of all our art forms. A production highlighting this aspect is on the anvil. ‘Geetgovindam’ has captivated me considerably. I am currently engaged in choreographing it in full. The experience while presenting lecture-demonstrations and workshops for students, especially in rural areas, is really rewarding. Training in music is a must for any dancer and I am taking lessons.

Knowledge of Telugu has helped me to delve deep into Tyagaraja’s compositions and I have choreographed a few of his kritis. I am also grooming a few youngsters at my home in Irinjalakuda.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 11:36:29 PM |

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