Partners in art & life
Girish Chandra and Devi Girish met as students of Kuchipudi dance and decided to become partners for life, dedicating all time towards their passion...
Girish Chandra and Devi Girish met as students of Kuchipudi dance and decided to become partners for life, dedicating all time towards their passion of dance. In an exclusive interview, the couple spoke about their return from Myanmar, where they premiered the dance production ‘Arjunah Dasanameeyam’ as a part of ‘Festival of India Abroad’ conducted by Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
What was the main reason to take up Kuchipudi dance?
Girish: For an artist, foremost is the passion for the art and I feel blessed to have learnt Kuchipudi from my childhood. It is also how you nurture that passion and it makes you decide whether to take it up as a profession. I am fortunate to be born into a family that supports and respects this decision.
Devi: I have started learning dance in Kerala. It was through my brother, Vineeth that I came to know about the Performing Arts wing that offers Masters in Kuchipudi at the University of Hyderabad. I wrote the entrance exam and got selected. From then, my blissful journey of art is associated only with Kuchipudi and dedication and passion towards the art form gives you the drive to push further.
What has been the role of a Guru in your path of dance?
Girish: I have been trained under Guru Dr Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry from my childhood. After each performance when I hear a positive comment about my style and execution, I owe it to my Guru. He took a lot of effort to get me into this mould. Later in University of Hyderabad under the guidance of Prof. Jonnalagadda Anuradha, I could learn not only the practical aspects of the form but also the theoretical insights of not only Kuchipudi but art as an umbrella term. I have also learnt and practised under Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar in Chennai, where I was really inspired and fascinated by the intrinsic choreography and compositions he put forth.
Devi: Art for me is always associated to my Guru Prof. Jonnalagadda Anuradha. It is not just the practical aspect of dance but she taught us how an artist should be. How elegantly and gracefully with utmost ingenuity, one should portray and perform. She changed my insight and vision of an artist in a broader manner, and the kind of reading that she introduced has changed my perception. Later, I went to Chennai to practice and learn under Guru Vempati Ravi Shankar, where I learnt and was inspired by the intricate ‘Adavus’ and the juxtaposition of movement patterns. In Hyderabad, I have also practised under Guru Bala Tripura Sundari, daughter of legendary Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam.
What is the underlying thought behind any performance?
Girish: Each performance is a new experience for us. So far it has been a blissful journey, both the inner self and outer self. More than conveying, I think if the audience could travel through us and connect to a space that is 'beyond' or 'divine', for me that would be a complete performance.
Devi: I think, if we succeed in acting as catalysts to bring in the feel and euphoria to the audience and if they could feel what we undergo that would be a “performance” and contending one too.
When and where did you both meet? How did the decision of marriage come about?
Girish: We both are class mates, bench-mates and batch-mates. We worked a lot together from our post-graduation days, we were part of many theatre and dance productions of our University and whenever we were paired opposite, everyone used to say that our chemistry worked well. That was the initial spark for me, but we were and are best friends, so I think it is the comfort level of working together, understanding each other’s space and a stress-free work space that bind us together.
Devi: Little did we know as students that one day we would get married. Yes, we have a strong bond of friendship. We have evolved as artistes together, so we knew each other’s positives and negatives. Since we grew together in personal and professional life, our parents had a positive outlook on our marriage.
Who among senior dancers inspire you and why?
Girish and Devi: Each dancer inspires in a different way. It is always the ‘maestros’ who set the benchmark for us. Since Kuchipudi is from “Bhagavatha Mela Tradition”, each performer is different from the other and each one has their own identity and nuances that we get inspired from.
How was your production received in Myanmar?
Girish and Devi: It was with a great honour and pride that we performed at Myanmar, being entitled as the cultural ambassadors of our country. Since our production was designed in Sanskrit, we were keen in having an intense understanding of the minutest nuance of what we were portraying so that it is clear to the audience.
We are very much fortunate to get an appreciation letter from the Consul General and the First Secretary of Indian Embassy, Myanmar stating our performance was the high point of the evening. For us, it was a dream come true to meet Aung San Sui Kyi, First State Counsellor of Myanmar. She saw the whole performance and congratulated us saying that it was a vigorous one.
What are your future plans?
Girish and Devi: To bring in more such works of art and also continue our learning and unlearning process through this 'divine journey'.