|1. Is Kuchipudi a folk or a classical style of dance?|
| 2. What is the difference between Kuchipudi and Yakshagana?
Basically dance can be divided into two forms, Marga (Classical) and Desi (folk). Yakshagana is a folk form whereas Kuchipudi is classical in nature. Yakshagana was originally only a musical form devotional in nature, easily understood by the common man. It was only much later that it evolved into a dance form but in the folk tradition. The Kuchipudi Yakshagana on the other hand is a blend of classical music, dance, and sahitya (verse) based on the elements of Natya Sastra.
| 3. What is the literal meaning of the word ‘Yakshagana’?
Yaksha were considered to be set of celestial beings. Gana means song. So Yakshagana literally means ‘song of the celestial beings’.
| 4. Is there a relation between Yakshagana of Karnataka and of Andhra Pradesh?
No. Yakshagana of Karnataka is a folk form while the Yakshagana of Andhra Pradesh iyys classical in nature. one can discern the difference in the music, costumes etc.
| 5. What is Ramanatakam?
Ramanatakam is the story of the legendary ruler of Ayodhya, Lord Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu, written and performed in the Yakshagana tradition. It was authored by Sriman Thirunagar Ananthna Daasakya and believed to have gained prominence in the 17th century.
| 6. What are the difference between Kuchipudi and Melattur (Melattur Bhagavata Mela)?
There is only a slight difference the two forms, for the roots are the same. Some of the wandering troupes of Kuchipudi Brahmins settled down in the Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu where they received royal patronage. Achyutappa Nayak, the then ruler of the region donated them a village – Achyutapuram. As the inhabitants were performing troupes (Melas) the piece came to be known as melattur. The repertoire, format etc are almost the same. Over the centuries, due to local influence one finds more of Bharatantyam element in the melattue style. The sahitya / lyrical beauty is overshadowed by the music in this form whereas importance is given to the lyrics in kuchipudi. One also finds the dramatic element is more predominant in Kuchipudi and less so in the Melattur Bhagavata Mela.
| 7. How old is the Kuchipudi style?
Kuchipudi is as ancient as Natya astra (1st century BC)in which mention is made of a dance drama form besides solo. An invocatory verse also indicates that four forms of dance were prevalent then, of which ‘Dakshintya’ or South Indian form is apparently the earliest version of Kuchipudi. There is also historical evidence that the art flourished during the reign of the Satavahanas (2nd century BC). Over the centuries as the performances were dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, the form came to be known as Bhagavata Mela Natakam. It was during Siddhendra Yogi’s time (14th – 15th century) that it came to be known as Kuchipudi, named after the village established by Siddhendra Yogi where his follower, the Brahmin performers settled down.
| 8. How old are the plays? How old is the music?
As mentioned earlier, the Kuchipudi tradition is quite ancient. The plays as well as the music which forms an integral part of the form goes as for back as the Satavahana era.
| 9. Are there different types / styles of Kuchipudi (village/town/different regions)?
There is only one style of Kuchipudi. Dancers form various regions more or less follows the same style and the differences are merely due to the individual interpretations and choreographic ability.
| 10. What are the characteristic differences between the dance position and movements of kuchipudi and Bharata Natyam?
Two parallel schools of dance have existed since time immemorial, viz. Nattuva Mela and Natya Mela. The former evolved into Bharat Natyam and the latter into Kuchipudi. There is difference in the presentation itself. The main difference lies in the abhinaya. The graceful, lasya oriented Kuchipudi gives importance to Vakyartha abhinaya go together. Bharatanatyam on the other hand is Mudra oriented and gives importance to Padartha abhinaya, each word interpreted through mudras. Certain movements are characteristic to Kuchipudi. Vachika abhinaya (use of words/dialogues) is also a special feature of the Kuchipudi style.
|11. Are there also similarities?
Both Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi, like other Indian classical dance forms have their roots in BharataNatya Sastra. Hence they have a lot in common. Both follow the rules set in the treatise, so the Hasta Mudras, Pada Bhedas, Charis, Karanas etc and the fundamentals of Nirtya and Abhinaya are same. Both styles follow classical music and talas.
| 12. What are the difference and similarities between Kuchipudi music and classical Carnatic music
(ragas, talas, musical forms)?
Kuchipudi music as mentioned above is based on the rich tradition of classical Carnatic ragas and talas. But Kuchipudi music has a distinct flavour of its own. The usage of pure notes and phrases in quick tempo is a characteristic feature of this style.
| 13. What about male and female roles?
Earlier though the temple and court dancers were women, in the interest of maintaining the lofty spiritual ethos of his Bhama Kalapam, Siddhendra Yogi inducted young Brahmin boys to perform his magnum opus. Hence the female roles were also portrayed by the males. The practice of men in female roles continued for centuries for the performing troupes travelled far and wide and the travel conditions were primitive and not conducive for women. It was Vedamtam Lakshimnarayana Sarma, my Guru, who initiated women into this dance style and used them to perform the female roles. I have on m part given predominance to women in my dance dramas as well as solo dances. I have also inducted women to play the male roles in my ballets.
|14. What about the repertoire?
Kuchipudi dance drama consists of ancient and contemporary compositions based on Hindu mythology. I have also choreographed and presented a socially relevant theme of un-touchability, based on Rabindranath Tagorea€™s a€?Chandalikaa€™. There are over twenty Sabdams prevalent in the style besides Kalapams, Jatiswaram etc. Kuchipudi repertoire has increased greatly in recent ears and include compositions of Jayadevaa€™s Gita Govindam, Tarangams of Narayana Thirtha and Padams of Kshetrayya besides slokas from Leelasukaa€™s Sri Krishna Karnamritha. Lately compositions of Thyagaraja, Annamacharya, Ramadas, Oothukkadu Venkata Subbayyar etal have found their way into the Kuchipudi solo repertoire.
|15. What are the changes oradditions the Guru has made in Kuchipudi performances?
I am a firm advocate of tradition but I do not subscribe to the view that tradition is static. I believe that tradition can never before stagnant and should evolve with time. Keeping in mind the changing tastes of the audiences, I have made use of the technological developments that are available today to make each performance a veritable delight to the viewers without losing the classical nature of the style. I have introduced symbolism and utilised modern techniques in stagecraft and aharya (costumes) that enhance the quality of the performance which have found favour with critics, connoisseurs and laymen alike.