Devotional learning of Telugu scripted my dance

Devotional learning of Telugu scripted my dance

Sobha Naidu, who exemplifies the soul of Telugus- Kuchipudi, in its flamboyance seized in mellifluous lingua, is more a dancer and much more a...

Sobha Naidu, who exemplifies the soul of Telugus- Kuchipudi, in its flamboyance seized in mellifluous lingua, is more a dancer and much more a connoisseur.

She dances and also creates life's versatile moods through diverse rhythmic patterns, melodic gestures of ecstasy and ethereal existence. As she knows the divine blend of Abhinaya and Aharya, her nostalgic emphasis on Rasa reveals the making of the icon.

my2I was native of Rajahmundry. Nobody in our family was an artist. But, SV Rangarao, the great versatile character actor of yesteryear was my grandpa's brother. Dwaram Venkata Swamy Naidu, the renowned violin exponent was our relative. Father Venkanna Naidu was an engineer in Irrigation Department and got transferred very frequently.

So, all my primary education had taken place in various towns from Srikakulam, Parvatipuram, Bobbili, Visakhapatnam, Rajahmundry, Nagarjunasagar, Bhimavaram and Chennai etc. All my teachers appreciated my dancing prowess. As I stood first in every class, there was not much problem for me to continue learning dance with gurs available in those towns.

My mother Sarojini Devi has a profound influence on me. But for her, I would not have been what I'm now. I used to answer mother's queries through my expressions. Finding that I have some talent in 'hava-bhava', she has taken me to a dance guru PL Reddy in Rajahmundry when I was just five. He was also impressed with my grasping power and taught me the rudiments of Kuchipudi, He used to take me on his lap, give me a glass of milk and taught me the little steps.

Let me narrate an interesting thing. When we were in Srikakulam, I used to play lead roles in dance ballets such as Puttadi Bomma Purnamma, Rukmini Kalyanam etc. Our team got first place in the district for 'Purnamma' and we got a chance to compete in state-level competition in Kakinada. My Headmistress Sundaramma, who treated me as her family member took me to Kakinada but by the time we reached there I was down with high fever.

But somehow or the other I performed on stage and returned to room and fell down on a mat with malaria. Half past midnight, I suddenly woke up as I felt some creature was touching my legs. I saw Sundaramma madam massaging my feet with tears on her eyes. When I tried to take back my legs, she prevented it and and advised me to sleep peacefully. Such was her affection which I never forget. She used to give me a rose blossomed at her garden every day at school.

In another incident, I was chided by my Telugu teacher Satyavati for scoring poor marks and warned me if such performance continues, there is no need to come to school again. Neglecting Telugu means neglecting your mother, she remarked. This rebuke worked on my mind very hard and changed my attitude. I started reading Telugu literature with single-minded devotion and alsto understood every word of what I read. This helped me greatly in later part of my life as a dancer as many of the ballets have to be performed with perfect script.

Frequent transfers of my father had become a hindrance for my dancing career and PL Reddy sir advised me to go to Chennai if I want to pursue my career in dance. Upon his suggestion, my mother took me to Chennai when I was studying my ninth class. I joined in Sharada school and later moved over to Queen Mary College. I joined as a disciple of Vempati garu simultaneously.

But the incident which transformed me greatly was when I saw the ballet of my guru "Srikrishna Parijatam". Chandrakala, noted Tollywood heroin played the lead role as Satyabhama and her performance was extraordinary. I dreamt of performing such an electrifying role at least once in my life and decided to work towards the end. Bollywood actress Rekha played as Narada in that ballet.

My student days at Guru Vempati were quite memorable and I learnt a lot- not just stage performance but the way to present a ballet, choreography, training students, aharyam, the literary aspects, musical notes etc. When 'Chandalika' was conceived, we got a chance to perform at Music Academy. But during the rehearsals, I could not get tears at one particular scene which was quite necessary. Even after repeated attempts, I could not weep. Guru scolded me quite angrily and asked me pack off and told the Organizers to cancel the programme even. It was heavily raining then.

I could not control myself and went out standing in the rain weeping. Guru's wife went inside and told him about me and he came out, took me inside and asked me what happened. I urged him to sing one last time as a practice so that I would try once again. With great reluctance, he sang and I wept at that particular scene and he was happy and the programme went as usual in the evening. It was a lesson to me and I used to take each and every bit carefully from then onwards.

I completed my graduation from SVU through correspondence and could not do post graduation because of my busy schedules. But dance has become part of my life and people around the world admired me for my abhinaya. Looking back, I have full satisfaction. I would continue to serve the Nataraja as long as I live.

(As told to BH Ramakrishna)

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