Born to dance: Raja-Radha Reddy's Kuchipudi traverses 50 years
By Mudita Girotra
New Delhi: The inception of their 50-year-journey was without fanfare and in the face of quite some opposition, but the commitment and passion of iconic dance couple Raja and Radha Reddy brought Kuchipudi on to the cultural map of the world.
When Raja Reddy took his first step as a professional dancer, his relatives and neighbours found it bizarre. For them, dancing was a thing for the lower classes.
"What is Raja doing? He is unnecessarily getting into this classless business and also bringing his wife into it," they said.
His mother was socially boycotted.
"People were saying all kinds of things, but we were mad about dancing," Raja Reddy told IANS in an interview, speaking for the duo.
"Two years after this, our names appeared in the papers. The same people who initially objected were now boasting about us and our achievements," he said.
And, to celebrate their golden milestone, the dancing couple organised a night-long concert at Saket's Natya Tarangini Performing Arts Centre on Friday to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva on Mahashivratri for their success.
"People enjoy our presentations a lot and we get a lot of love from our audiences wherever we perform," Reddy said, adding: "It perhaps depends on your way of presenting that makes the audience hold their breath until the last moment."
Even so, it was a tough start to their phenomenal journey, Reddy reminisced.
"The only dance forms that were valued in South India that era were Bharatanatyam and Odissi," Reddy said.
But their persistence resulted in the dyad becoming the first dancing couple from India to perform in the International Dance Festival of Avignon (France) and Salzburg (Austria) in 1974.
They later went on and participated in many important international dance festivals including the prestigious Festival of India at New York, Washington and London.
"We are the first Indian dancing couple to come out of the state of Andhra Pradesh and we have created a mark nationally and internationally," Reddy said proudly.
"Our journey started when we performed Kuchipudi in a full length recital in Delhi for people from all cultures of our country.
"This attracted major media attention and we became the subject of admiration for not only people who understand and enjoy Kuchipudi but just about everyone else," he said.
The maestro, despite all his struggles, has always been optimistic about the survival of Kuchipudi.
"Kuchipudi dance is a beautiful combination of four kinds of Abhinayas: angrika (body language), aharya (ornaments and costume), satvika (sentimental expression) and vachika (speech)," he said, adding: "No other form has this kind of combination to make it versatile and easy for the masses to understand."
"The only way classical dance is suffering is because there is not enough patronage by the various bodies that are there to propagate and support these dance forms," he said.
Reddy felt that the government bodies that are meant to give support and financial assistance to classical dancers should be more supportive towards struggling artists.
"State governments should help their artists locally to preserve the rich heritage of their respective art forms and the central government should definitely (do more) to support and help artists, various art forms from fading away."
According to Reddy, life has changed tremendously. He feels that the present generation is usually caught up with a lot of responsibilities early in life that prevent them in devoting adequate time to the dance form.
"A very good number of kids from all over come up to learn Kuchipudi. Their parents take interest in the classical forms. The problem is that there is not a lot of time as life today is very fast. They have so many things to focus on and not just dance."
"Things were different when we started our career in Kuchipudi. We had a lot of time to invest and that helped us make a mark in the world," he said.
"We still continue to work tirelessly towards the propagation and preservation of our rich Indian heritage of dance and music as a way of giving back to society in the form of imparting knowledge and presenting shows all across," he said.
"It is our only aim and it is our way of life."