A danseur's tale

C. R. Acharya dedicated his life to the propagation of Kuchipudi.

May 05, 2011 06:37 pm | Updated 06:48 pm IST

C. R. Acharya

C. R. Acharya

News that recently surfaced was that even before Nataraja Ramakrishna planned for collecting information on dance styles and relevant Sahitya of ancient dances performed in the coastal Andhra that we now know as ‘Andhra Natyam,' there was an earlier attempt by a Kuchipudi exponent the late C.R. Acharya , direct disciple of Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry, to collect rare ‘javalis', ‘padams' and ‘varnams' from Devadasis dedicated to temple dances. He did a lot of research especially in villages around Eluru in West Godavari district and collected some rare temple dance forms of the past. These Devadasis lived in villages like Ballipadu, Duvva, Moramanda and other places. However, Acharya could not bring them out in book form at that time, as he continued his research and travelled down south and studied ‘Karanas,' watching figurine postures on various temple pantheons there. He concentrated more on the theory part and made notes. His daughter and disciple Voleti Rangamani says she has part of this literature with her now and practicing them. Rangamani had to make another trip, much later, to those places for another reason, after she established herself as a guru, in Hyderabad and recorded compositions and wrote notes taking from those aged dancers. “My father actually continued performing them adapting those Devadasi dance choreography,” Rangamani informs. “As a child, I too accompanied my father to all these places he toured and was a witness to his work, she says. He took pictures of them and made notes of them extensively.”

Chilakammarri Ramacharyulu (C.R. Acharya that he was known popularly) was born in1919 in Nuziveedu, in Krishna district, in a family of scholars. His twin brother Lakshmanacharyulu took to teaching profession. Acharya was exposed to touring Kuchipudi artistes to his village and got attracted to that form. And he had an opportunity to play Lohitasya in ‘Harischandra', as a boy. As a young boy Acharya began learning dance from the great guru of his times, Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry, who revolutionised Kuchipudi dance art and brought in solo performing system. Having lost his father early, Acharya was on his own. Like him all his ancestors were scholars in both Sanskrit and Telugu – ‘Ubhayabhasha Paraveenas.' His grandmother Telikicherla Seetamma was a great Sanskrit scholar and well known all over the area in and around Eluru. He used to take his daughter Rangamani to these places for research.

“I used to watch these Devadasis perform various dance numbers. My father used to write those songs as they were being rendered.” she adds, “my family shifted from Nuzividu to Eluru because there were great artistes and art promoters like Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao, Pasala Suryachanadra Rao, Aveti Poonima and others. They started ‘Kalakshetram' and requested my father to teach dance. By then he became a popular dancer.”

Acharya was being called as ‘Kuchipudi Tatayya' by children learning under him. “What my father sang were exactly the same songs the older generation of Devadasis sang. Though he did not have formal education, he could write poetry and prose impressively. My father felt that Eluru was not a place for any Kuchipudi artiste to survive, and hence decided to move away for the sake of propagation of dance art,” She explains the reason for Acharya moving to Ahmedabad on the invitation of Mrinalini Sarabhai to join her dance academy Darpana.

Since then Acharya continued his work in that academy till his death.

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