Stitching to fame

Stitch in timeT. Annapurna Prasad on the job.PHOTO: V. RAJU.

Stitch in timeT. Annapurna Prasad on the job.PHOTO: V. RAJU.  

Chatline By dressing up performers of Indian classical dance forms, Thota Annapoorna Prasad adds aesthetic appeal to their presentation, says Swati Sanyal Tarafdar

Thota Annapoorna Prasad decided to break away from the family tobacco business and try his hand at something more creative, more fulfilling, and praiseworthy. He joined a local Masterji’s shop as an apprentice and learned to design, cut, and sew valuable yards of clothes. He was 15 at the time. It took him a few more years to trail out and set up his own wee bit of an enterprise, Nutan Tailors on Eluru road, opposite the bustling Vijaya Talkies, in 1987.

Prasad was happy stitching and sewing ladies’ garments in his motley shop when one day, an odd customer asked him to stitch a dance costume. Although he had to turn down that customer, the offer set him thinking. It was a challenge to his mettle and his commitment to his profession. Prasad challenged his talent at garment making and started meddling with silks, zaris, studying costumes that dancers wore and unravelling the puzzle in making them.

Today, Prasad’s Nutan Tailors is a respected name in the dancing community not only in and around Vijayawada, but within much of Andhra Pradesh and beyond. His is the only shop in the city that caters to the patrons of Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Manipuri, folk, and other dance forms. Established dancers are among his privileged clientele. Reputed dance teachers send their students to get their dresses stitched at Nutan.

Says Prasad: “My clients come over from the nearby villages, other districts like Warangal, Hyderabad and even from the Kuchipudi village itself. Many reputed dancers are regulars here. Vedanta Radhe Syam from the Kuchipudi village orders all costumes from my shop. We also feel proud to create costumes for the likes of C H Ajay Kumar, Sarada Ramakrishna and Venkatarama Sarma.”

Parents of young dancers and well-known performers hand over expensive silk, ‘pattu’ saris to Prasad and his two brothers, who have also picked up the threads of this trade. The material may cost anything between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000, sometimes even more. The brothers mix and match colourful zaris to go with the colour of the sari, check the sample or the type of garment the customer has ordered, pick out the craft for the fan on the costume, and set designing.

Four employees help them in cutting and sewing the basic forms, but the intricacies of the trade lie with the brothers. There are specialised cuts and handiworks that only Prasad and his brothers can do.

Says Balakrishna, Prasad’s first brother: “People who work with us are more interested to learn and work on salwar kameez, lehengas and other ladies’ garments because these are more profitable. The handiwork for the dance dresses are intricate, time consuming, and need a lot of patience. There are stitches and bead works to be done by hand. None of the young workers are interested in learning or doing this. Naturally, we are also keeping the secret within the family.”

But is the younger generation going to carry on the specialised trade? “My son is pursuing a B. Pharma course in the NRI College. Clearly he’s looking out for greener pastures. My entire focus is on educating the children and see that they are well established in life”, says Prasad.

Ask Prasad about his best moments and he lightens up. Pointing to a cabinet, he shows the numerous mementoes he has received from performers for whom he has stitched a Bharatanatyam, a Manipuri, or a Kuchipudi costume. “They all ushered me on to the stage and presented me these mementoes”, says Prasad with a sense of pride.

He also has a good collection of photographs to substantiate his claims. His collection of mementoes and insignia would be anyone’s envy.

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