Natya Tarangini's Parampara Series flies the banner for classical art forms

Natya Tarangini's Parampara Series flies the banner for classical art forms

Natya Tarangini's Parampara Series flies the banner for classical art forms

“Through dance, one can enter a meditative state similar to ritualistic chanting,” says Padma Bhushan Dr Raja Reddy as he addresses a rapt audience. It is the first day of the Natya Tarangini dance festival, which is taking place in the troupe’s Saket premises for the first time since the pandemic struck the world. Starved of access to the classical arts, people in the auditorium and the multitude that have tuned in from around the world for its live telecast on YouTube, heartily agree with him. The evocative opening sequence of the members of the Raja Radha Reddy troupe further serves to cement this belief. Two women clad in their finest silk sarees and bedecked with paraphernalia befitting true exponents of Kuchipudi, kneel to pay obeisance to a large orb symbolising a higher power. Lights dim, and all eyes focus on these young belles in the act of making an invocation, in turn declaring this multi-day cultural fest open.

“We began the Parampara festival many years ago to promote our Indian treasures – our dances, music and cultural activities. Our temples used to be the treasure houses of our culture but that practice is waning. It is our responsibility to maintain Bharat’s greatness. Our country is known all over the world for Natya and Sangeetam, and to maintain the tradition, we wanted to spread the knowledge of dance and music to coming generations. The Parampara festival has been promoting Indian classical arts since 1997 by inviting dedicated artists from all over the world, India as well as other countries like Russia, France etc. The name of the festival explains it all. It shows the time-honoured tradition or Parampara of our land Bharat, which is known as the Gyanbhoomi,” shares Dr Reddy in an exclusive chat.

Dr(s). Raja Radha Reddy and Kaushalya Reddy, have become synonymous with the dance form of Kuchipudi native to a village of the same name in Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the eight major Indian classical dances and is an intense form of dance-drama whose essence is derived from the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text known as the Natya Shastra. To promote this dance form, they opened Natya Tarangini in 1976. Over the years, it has evolved from a simple Kuchipudi dance school into a Performing Arts Centre that works for the collective preservation and promotion of all Indian classical art forms.

The Raja Radha Reddy Troupe was a natural offshoot of this dance school. It is a dancing company that consists of artists that have been handpicked by the maestros themselves. They perform on eminent national and international platforms and have received many accolades, yet their most enduring stage has remained Natya Tarangini’s Parampara Festival. Apart from celebrated names like Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Kishori Amonkar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, Begum Parveen Sultana, Vyjayanthimala Bali, Kelucharan Mohapatra, and Hariharan amongst others, there has also been a significant international participation with the Moscow Classical Ballet, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, flamenco dancer Jose Porcel and whirling dervishes.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Natya Tarangini adapted swiftly and the last two festivals were presented virtually, bringing in far greater reach and tremendous audience appreciation from around the world. However, a return to normalcy with the reduction of Covid cases, offered the opportunity to organize the festival in a hybrid format, with shows being presented to a live audience while being live streamed simultaneously. Dr Reddy explains the reason for this, “Covid-19 actually helped us by allowing us to present our dance online and widening our audience. I feel that instead of disappointment we should look at the positive side of things. Our number of students from different parts of the world also grew.”

This year, the festival was scheduled to take place from November 12-14, but due to unavoidable circumstances, the third day of the fest was cancelled. The Raja Radha Rangmanch (Amphitheatre) at Natya Tarangini, New Delhi was the chosen stage, and the line-up of artists consisted of Drs. Raja Radha Reddy, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Rama Vaidhyanathan, and Aruna Sairam, with two performances on each day. Though its third day was cancelled, the festival had also invited Aditi Mangaldas and Pt Jayateerth Mevundi to perform.

Sharing the methodology behind curating the performances, Dr Reddy says, “Our only criterion is to invite those who are dedicated to their craft and are looking for opportunities like these. We sometimes invite artists from younger generations as well, but even they must be completely dedicated to their chosen art form.” This was starkly evident through the dance presentation presented both by the Kuchipudi maestros themselves and by their troupe of four charming young danseuses – Yamini Reddy, Pernia Qureshi, Noor Kaur Chopra, and Prakriti Prashant. The first presentation by them focussed on the omnipresence of God in the universe, which is crucial to maintain the balance of life on Earth; the second called Tarangam saw the dancers manoeuvre the stage gracefully while balanced on brass plates, each one in step with the pulsing beats and the rhythm of their co-dancers.

After the frenetic dance performance, the audience was treated to a soulful set to mellow the mood. Renowned Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan regaled the audience with his signature tunes. It is no wonder then that Meenakshi Lekhi, who was present in the August audience, summarised the first day’s festivities with, “Those not well versed with dance can still partake of this spiritual experience with and through the dancers!” Highlighting the 75th year Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, she also implored the younger generations of today to embrace our country’s classical art forms by shunning the west-is-best colonial mindset.

Day two of Parampara opened with a performance by talented Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan, who choreographed two pieces for the show. The first was a dance to a Meera Bhajan, and the second to a Telugu Padam by Annamacharya on the immense love that Alamelu Manga had for her spouse Lord Venkateshwara. This performance was followed by Vidushi Aruna Sairam who sang three pieces in her distinctive Carnatic style, staying true to the overarching theme of the festival of highlighting devotion to God.

“The Parampara festival has become more relevant over the years. It is lovely to see younger people developing an interest in the classical art forms! Not much has changed in the way we organise the festival but one consistent change we notice every year is that the audience keeps increasing as people become more interested in attending it and learning about our art forms. If we delay the festival, we receive so many calls asking us when it is happening. It has now become a family endeavour and we are completely dedicated to it. We are not a traditional dance family but this dance is everything to us,” says Dr Raja Reddy, signing off.

Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle article for various publications and her blog

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