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Home Cover Features Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony

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Perfect Harmony

Padma Bhushans Radha and Raja Reddy with over five decades experience have been enthralling the audiences with their performances. Along with them, they are joined with  Raja’s second wife Kaushalya and daughters Yamini and Bhavana, who have all dedicated themselves to Kuchipudi.

Padma Bhushans Radha and Raja Reddy have single-handedly with ultimate devotion and dedication put Kuchipudi on the world map and have become popular as the Dancing Couple. They are joined in their dancing passion by Kaushalya, Yamini and Bhavana and are popularly called The Reddy Family.

Since early childhood Raja Reddy was drawn to dance. In his village, he saw Vijayanthimala’s ‘Nagin’, a record number of 17 times, just for the dance numbers. Guru Raja who hails from a Zamindar’s family is the first in the family to be a dancer. “From an early age, I was interested in Kuchipudi Bhagavatam,” says Guru Raja Reddy.

Recalling his early days, Guru Raja Reddy says that after finishing his Class 10, he shifted to Hyderabad for studies. With passion for dance in his veins, his friend stepped in to help him. He took him to a Kuchipudi guru, who looking at Raja Reddy said that you don’t have the features to become a dancer and you should go back to your village to pursue farming. “You don’t have a slim waist, as in those days men donned the roles of women, and you are dark complexioned too. You can’t be a dancer,” recalled the grand man of Kuchipudi.

Taking no offence to the comment, Guru Raja Reddy along with his friend went to a Music College in Ramkote, Hyderabad, where Kathak was being taught. He began learning Kathak, and his wife Radha, who had joined him in the Pearl City, too took to dance, while observing her husband.  Guruji lost his father while still in school, and his mother just told him to follow what he felt was right. Guruji shares that because for his love for dance, his mother was socially boycotted and she kept it under wraps from her son. “When I came to know about it, I fought it tooth and nail and won the case in court,” says Guru Raja Reddy.

However, luck smiled on Guru Raja Reddy, when Vedantam Prahalad Sharma agreed to teach Kuchipudi provided the couple moved to Eluru. Raja Reddy moved with his wife Radha to Eluru, where Vedantam Prahalad Sharma taught only Tandavam to Raja and Laasya to Radha. The Guru says that his big day came in 1967, when his name was proposed for the single scholarship for Kuchipudi. The couple moved to country’s capital and learnt choreography in the school set up by Maya Rao. “One must learn Choreography, it helps in presenting an item. Choreography is important. Even a simple Nritta item can be presented differently,” he says adding that even his better half Radha learnt choreography.

Perfect Harmony

Throwing more light on his journey, Guru Raja Reddy says that he was grateful to Indrani Rehman, who invited Radha and him to accompany her troupe on their various visits. “For two years, we were part of her group and if we are well-known today, it is thanks to her,” he says.

In the same breath, he thanks Raman, secretary, Tamil Theatre, for giving them the first break. “Dr. Karan Singh was instrumental in helping us get a house in Delhi,” he says. Describing another incident, Guru Raja Reddy says that at one performance on Children’s Day at Teen Murti, Indira Gandhi was astonished to see him bare bodied in early winter and she gave him her shawl and “I treasure it till date”.

Guru Raja Reddy says that Indira Gandhi appreciating their dance form told them not to go back to their State, but stay back in Delhi and popularise the dance by teaching in Delhi. “Kuchipudi is a combination of theatre and dance,” he says, adding that it is their life.

The dancing duo, Raja and Radha Reddy, has given a new dimension to Kuchipudi dance without sacrificing its grammar or hurting its sensibilities. With perfection of technique, and command on the art form, the couple stands tall in their field. A connoisseur of art cannot take his eyes off when the couple light up the stage. The Guru and his wife perfectly portray the manly strength and expressive charm of Shiva-Parvati, Rama-Sita and Krishna-Radha. When the two are on the stage, it looks the sculptures have come to life.

Kaushalya, who learnt dance under Vedantam Rattiah Sarma and Raja-Radha Reddy, has been bestowed with immaculate footwork and sparkling elegance. Kaushalya doesn’t shy away from experimenting. Kaushalya, younger sibling of Radha, is not only Guru Raja’s second wife, but also partner in their professional and personal life. When Radha and Raja Reddy are performing, Kaushalya does the Nattuvangam, and when Kaushalya performs solo, Guru Raja does the Nattuvangam.

Yamini has inherited dance from her parents. She is blessed with chiseled features and has a very enchanting presence with flawless rhythm and expressions. On being the daughter of the legendary couple, Yamini says that she got a readymade platform but with lot of challenges to live up to the standards set by her parents.

Guru Raja shares that he is proud of his daughters, who have dedicated themselves to Kuchipudi. “My elder daughter Yamini got a marriage proposal from abroad, but it was rejected as she said that if she went abroad she would not be able to pursue her passion. Today, she successfully runs the Hyderabad branch of Natya Tarangini, which has 200 students,” he says. The School in Delhi has 300 students learning Kuchipudi.

Bhavana born to Raja and Kaushalya is a dedicated Kuchipudi dancer and vocalist. Guru Raja Reddy says that even his younger daughter Bhavana went to Hollywood and graduated from Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, but returned to India to perform Kuchipudi.

When questioned on whether, he was soft towards his daughters, while teaching them, he said that the two roles never mingled. “When I was teaching them dance, I was a Guru and handled them the same way as the others. Even Radha was strict with them. There was no kind of partiality,” he says.

On promoting Kuchipudi dance, Guru Raja Reddy says: “I am happy that the Andhra Pradesh government has started Kuchipudi as part of curriculum in schools. This will go a long way in inculcating the art form in the youngsters from a tender age.” The Guru stresses that the Next Gen must know about the culture of the country. He feels that the government must work out a mechanism where at least one member of a family is involved in any art form. “In fact, India is known for its art forms and they bring discipline in a person,” he says.

Perfect Harmony

Recalling his memorable moment, Guru Raja Reddy says that following their performance at Hotel Ashoka, the couple were invited to a festival in France, where they presented ‘Dashavataram’ which won them a standing ovation. The dancing duo has toured the length and breadth of the globe and mesmerizing one and all including the Cuban President Fidel Castro. “It was after a trip abroad in Jan 1984, when I noticed six telegrams, three for me and three for Radha, were waiting. They were to inform us that we have been selected for Padma Shri awards individually and together. We were conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2000,” he says.  The couple has been honoured with the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award in 1990 and the prestigious Sangeet Natak Award in 1992.

Raja Reddy says that in the last-minute, they were included to perform at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. “Former President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, who was the chief guest was highly impressed by our presentation and came up and congratulated us,” he says.

Guru Raja Reddy says that to succeed in becoming a good dancer, complete dedication was required.

Bhagawadajjukayam, a Dance Ballet by Padma Bhushan Radha Raja Reddy, Yamini Reddy and students of Natya Tarangini was part of the fifth edition of Hyderabad Arts Festival – Season 5. This was a satirical drama written by Bhodhayana around the advent of Chrisitian era. Vasantsena, a charming courtesan wanders in the garden in her casual routines enjoying the scenic beauty of nature with her sakhis. Yamadhoota, on directions of the God of Death, enters the garden and in the disguise of a snake takes life out of Vasantsena leaving her dead.

Shandilya, a Buddhist monk and an ardent lover of Vasantsena is horrified to see her dead. He is totally lost in grief. His Guru Parivrajaka, a true Buddhist, preaches Aadhyayanam i.e. Buddham Sharanam Gachhami, Sangham Sharanam Gachhami and Dhammam Sharanam Gachhami.

But this is of no avail to Shandilya and in turn Shandilya challenges his Guru Parivrajaka to use his Yogic powers and bring Vasantsena back to life. Parivrajaka, through his art of Parakaya Pravesa drives his own soul from his body into the still body of Vasantsena. As the transformation is completed, Vasantsena comes to life but starts behaving like Parivrajaka. She begins preaching and asks Shandilya to stay away.

Perfect Harmony

On the other side, Yama Dharma Raja, the God of Death finds that Yamadoota by an error had taken out the life of Vasantsena. He orders Yamadoota to restore the life of Vasantsena into its body before it is cremated. Yamadoota on reaching the garden is surprised to find Vasantsena active with life and it took no time for him to realize that Parivrajaka was at play.

Mischievously enough Yamadoota leaves the soul of Vasantasena in the still body of Parivrajaka which is lying around. Oh, now it is Parivrajaka’s turn to behave like Vasantsena. Shandilya is upset with this and tries to figure out what went wrong, He goes from one to the other and sits sadly.

This interchanging of souls with the interpolation of bodies left a note of mockery and fun. The mockery ended with the Yamadoota restoring the souls into the respective original bodies in a melodramatic style.

Prior to the ballet Radha & Raja Reddy presented salutations to Lord Ganesha. Before the programme, Poorvarangam was enacted as it is customary in the Kuchipudi style of presentation. It is preparing the stage before the actual presentation.

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