IN STEP WITH THE MASTER
Three ballets of Late Shri Vempati Chinna Satyam, 'Siva Dhanurbhangam', 'Ksheera Sagara Madhanam', and 'Rukmini Kalyanam' were presented as a part of...
Three ballets of Late Shri Vempati Chinna Satyam, "Siva Dhanurbhangam", "Ksheera Sagara Madhanam", and "Rukmini Kalyanam" were presented as a part of Kuchipudi Festival conducted by his son Dr Vempati Ravi Shankar Vijaya Pratap Poet Vishwanadha Satyanarayana rightly said, "Andhra jaathi jeeva naadi- Kuchipudi ", and we Andhras, as the proud inheritors, have every reason to celebrate this legacy. CCRT (Centre for Cultural Resource and Training) recently hosted Kuchipudi Ballet festival, presenting three ballets of Late Shri Vempati Chinna Satyam. He was the sculptor who chiselled the ancient Kuchipudi to a finesse and fine-tuned it into an elegant dance form. He further added grace and grammar, for it to earn a classical status. His son Dr Vempati Ravi Shankar, himself a competent guru, conducted the show with aplomb. "Siva Dhanurbhangam", "Ksheera Sagara Madhanam", and "Rukmini Kalyanam" were performed during the festival. Vempati's collaboration with Late Bhujangaraya Sharma (lyrics) and Sri Pattrayani Sangeetha Rao (music) resulted in some enchanting dance dramas. One such was "Siva Dhanurbhangam" that starts with the source of Ramayana and goes upto the celestial wedding. Though Sita's mother doesn't figure anywhere in the epic, it was lovely to see a doting Sumedha cuddling baby Sita (imaginary), while her 'ladies in waiting' appreciated her good fortune. It must have been a proud moment for Chavali Balatripura Sundari (Vempati's daughter), who essayed the role. Some scenes were striking, like the naming ceremony of Dasaradha's sons, entries of Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Shrutha Keerthi, each with a distinctive pravesa daruvu , Vishwamitra gifting astras to Rama and Lakshmana, Janaka's overflowing joy on seeing the handsome Rama etc. "Ksheera Sagara Madhanam" occupies the pride of place in Dr Vempati's ballet repertoire. Having completed fifty glorious years, it is still a hot favourite with the connoisseurs and a challenge to the performers. Originally composed as a radio drama, it was later converted to a dance ballet. Written by Devulapalli Krishna Shastri and set to music by Dr Balanthrapu Rajani kantha Rao ( AIR ), it showcases the best of Vempati's choreography. Presented first time in 1963 in Hyderabad, the ballet had Dr Vempati as Shiva, Yamini Krishna Murthy as Mohini and Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma as Dhanvanthari (his rare male portrayal). Must have been a visual feast watching all those great dancers on one stage ! With vibrant music and equally effervescent dances, "Ksheera Sagara Madhanam" had some fantastic episodes. Bali's grandiose entry, his flamboyant court, the recurring- haunting musical "taravanga taravanga ...." as gods and demons churn the ocean, the latter being tricked by the seductive Mohini etc. Though it is a well known story, the action packed drama and the artistic manipulation sustained viewer's interest throughout. In "Rukmini Kalyanam", Rukmini enters with an endearing but a lesser known pravesa daruvu, "Taruni rukmini vachenamma" , she speaks of her gentle beauty and virtues, but with modesty (unlike Satyabhama). The captivating dance of Aruna and Shivani in Sishupala's sabha is praiseworthy for its grace, vitality and well executed long and complex jathis. DSV Shastri's amazing singing skills made the three day festival an aural treat as well. His gifted voice modulated perfectly to suit each character while his extraordinary singing further enhanced their performances. Ashrita Vemuganti excelled in the roles of Rama, Shiva and Krishna, as her fine features and soft demeanour went well with the characters. Her fierce fight with Sishupala was noteworthy. Sudhir was distinguished as Vishwamitra and Dhanwanthari, but his best performance was, that of Sishupala, where he made a mark with his stage presence and striking personality. Priyanka as Sita, Lakshmi and Rukmini impressed with her fine dancing. Jagannadh as Viprudu was very convincing. Mrutyunjaya Sharma stood out as Lakshmana, and his matchless energy was evident in his other roles as well. Ajay as Dasaradha and Bali did full justice. Shekar's sinuous movements as Vasuki impressed all. Bhagavathula Srinivas as Janaka, Sudarshan as Guhudu and many others through their noteworthy performances, added to the splendid show. Veteran dancer and one of guru Vempati's early disciples, Prabha played Mohini, and enlivened the role of the enchantress. Sangeetha Kala and Sudha Rani sang for female roles, while Kalpana (also played Ahalya) was on nattuvangam . Ganesh on mridangam, Dinakar on violin, Sudhakar on veena, Murali on flute gave excellent support while Tadepalli Satyanarayana compered with gusto. For the performers, it was a fulfilling experience, paying homage to 'Mastergaru'. For the rasikas, it was a satiating feast with a matching ambience. Cool breeze laced with the fragrance of incense, soft grass under the feet, and the subtly lit trees further added to the highly gratifying experience.