Shri Raja Reddy - The famous Kuchipuddi Dancer
ShriRaja and SmtRadha Reddy, the most extraordinary Kuchipudi dancers - have been bestowed with number of awards which includes "PadhmaBhushan" the highest award to honor a performing artist by the Government of India. National network of education team had the privilege of having a live conversation with Shri Reddy ji.He was very courteous and greeted us properly.Excerpts from the conversation:NNE : Please tell us about early years, about your family background and your career graph?Reddy Ji
|Raja & Radha with Smt.Indira Gandhi|
I am from Adilabad district Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Adilabad is a backward district. My native place is Narsapur.
Those days when I was very young, government servants used to get transferred to my district, if they didn’t perform their duties well. As a punishment they used to be transferred to my district. Now it has developed a lot. My parents were agriculturists. My father is no more but he is still alive in my thoughts. We are not from any art related background or culture. My father used to sponsor the programme like Bhagvatam which normally only low class people used to perform. They travelled from place to place, from December to June. I used to watch bhagvatam throughout the night (Radha & me) That‘s how I got the inspiration to learn dance. NNE: Why did you choose Kuchipuddi?Reddy ji
Kuchipuddi is from Andhra Pradesh and in Andhra they call Kuchpudi bhagvatam. Bhagvatam is a very beautiful dance drama (Natyam).Where different characters come and introduce them self on stage, they explain their purpose of performance .They portray different kinds of emotions. The language they use is Telgu that‘s why we were interested in kuchipuddi and it’s a great dance style..NNE: Where did you get your initial training, and why did you choose dance as a career?Reddy ji
, since childhood I had an inclination towards dance and music. Where there was Bhajan I was there, where there was Bhagvatam I was there .Where there was kodiyattayam I was there. My father saw me traveling with the bhagvatam troupe and send me out of the village so that I don’t pursue my career in Dance & music but I could not survive without dance & music.NNE: What is bhagvatam?Reddy ji
It’s a play which is from Vishnu‘s stories “Bhagvatam”. The troup used to present dance dramas through out the night. One story some takes 5 nights. From 9 pm clock onwards it went on till 6am .After this they used to go off to work and at sleep during the day. I used to watch and that is why I was very much interested and when my father noticed that I was traveling with them as they travel all over the world and perform – he wanted me to keep away from the group.
They stationed for fifteen days and after their performances they travelled to other places (15- 20 km) to present their program at other places. When they went form my village I traveled with them. Sometimes without the knowledge of my parents. I used to take part as a child, my father came to know and he send me to “TALUKA” he scolded me he said “don’t stay with them who are only exposed to Bhajans, bhagvatam what is this? You have to study” he sends me to Taluka which is a main city and he wanted me to study there and there no Bhagvatam used to take place. I went there and I was exposed to cinema .I saw nagin movie and I watched for 17 continuous days I used it to watch it everyday. I used to see and copy Vejayantimala.
I had an inner urge for learning dance. I knew I was dark but my inner urge is for God for music. After my higher secondary I came back to Hyderabad for studies (pre university course). My friend took me to a guru (kuchipuddi guru) that time he was directing in films .His name was V.jagannath sharma. He is a traditional guru he was directing in films and that day when I met him he was badly drunk. That daywhen I had gone yo his place he was looking me from top to bottom and he asked me that you- want to learn dance? Those days there was a trend of men taking role of females now also if you go in kuchipuddi village men take female roles? He told me look your fingers waist, face, and nose, look at your legs. You don’t have a single quality to become dancers, “don’t waste your time just go to your village and you do agricultural work”.
I was very disappointed I kept on crying .My friend took me to the government college of music and dance art unfortunately kuchipuddi was not there only Kathak was there .So my friend said why don’t you learn kathak? I learned kathak for sometimes (Hyderabad).I learnt kathak for three years. I was forced to learn kathak .Basically I had no choice. But yes I was mad for Kuchipuddi because of “kuchipuddi Bhagvatam “.NNE: Your couple has been the most famous couple your comments on this?Reddy ji
My Guruji Vedantam Pralya sharma from Hyderabad, had staged a performance “ushapadyam” Rabindrabharti .I went and saw it and that was the time I met Radha ( my wife), actually we had child marriages and when the girl matures then she is send to her husband. We used to watch Bhagvatam” together. She was five and I was eleven when I got married .We used to watch bhagvatam even in Radhas village there was some function I used to go there and watch it. So I was in Hyderabad and Radha came to me we both went to Pralya Sharma. She was also interested in our dance.
She was very delighted, she thought that atleast somebody in Reddy family is interested in dance. My mother in law was not in favour of me she used to say that if Radha ji comes to me then her live would be ruined. So she said that “don’t become stupid, I will arrange for your divorce.”But Radha said that if I marry, I marry Raja only. She was about to jump in the well and then my father in law got hyper and said “do whatever you want to do”. My father in law said that if he becomes a dancer she becomes a dancer, if he become a gardener she will also becomes gardener it’s is in her fate so let her sent to Raja. My mother-in-law was planning to marry Radha with somebody else. So she sent a person form her village (the guy with whom Radhaji ‘s mother wanted to get her married). I went to her village and Radha and me in the night we ran away to the railway station we got the train for Hyderabad and ran away from that place.Radha and we were living together and we both approached Parlya ji.NNE: Tell me something about “Guru Shishya Parampara”?Reddy ji:
My daughters are actually following” Guru Shishya Parampara” when they are at home I treat them as my daughter I pamper them I be friendly with them but when my daughters are in the class room they see a different self .I am very particular about rehearsals. Until and unless they perform nicely I will ask them to rehearse again and again. I am very particular about discipline in my classroom (dance room).NNE: Since you are Guru what do you suggest about the present scenario of the teachers?Reddy ji :
Nowadays, students don’t not respect their teacher at all. They don’t greet their teachers. Nowadays students make fun of their teachers, they threaten their teachers. The respect towards their teachers is detoriating. At present students don’t address their teachers properly. They abuse their teachers. Previously there was a different connotation for guru now days it is changing. Previously students used to consider their teachers Brahma Vishnu.Nowdays it has become more commercial. Parents are also to be blames for this they don’t nurture their kids properly. Now also my daughters touch the feet of all the elders. This is what we have inculcated in them. Touching feet doesn’t degrade your level .In my dance schools all of the students touch my feet.NNE: Why people don’t take dance as full time profession?Reddy ji :
People don’t take dance as a full time profession because nowadays, the time has changed. Previously dance was taught as an scared art like when I started learning dance my father in law and mother in law told me that “he is gone to be a beggar” .If you compare dance with other course like “ engineering etc” then you can see that dance will not pay you more(job wise). Dance is not a very high paying job. It’s not a very secure job. In olden days also it was not a very high paying career. And now also it’s not a high paying job. But yes if the person is very serious and he gives his soul and dedication to dance then automatically he can shine his career in this field.