The Parampara series
, an annual dance festival by Dr. (s) Raja Radha Reddy’s Natya Tarangini, is held every year, dedicated to tradition and culture of India.
The 21st edition took place last weekend, 22nd to 24th September at Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi, bringing together talented artists from the field of both classical music and dance.
We spoke to Natya Tarangini dance studio’s co-founder and manager, Ms. Kaushalya Reddy, about the event and cultural scene in India.
Events like the Parampara series garner the best of talent from our country, coming together for the promotion of Indian Classical Art. This is the 21st year of this National Festival of Music and Dance, how would you describe the journey?
The Parampara series festival was started way back in 1996. The Reddy community belongs to the rich landlords and agriculturists and defying the usual options of either becoming a doctor, or an engineer, or a policeman, Raja Reddy Ji was thought to be deviating from the family profession. He came to Delhi and established himself and even got an opportunity to teach at Juilliard school in New York which he refused as he only wanted to dance. By achieving so much and travelling extensively, we wanted to give back to the society. There was a lot of change that was happening in the field of the classical arts towards the end of 1980s. It was only classical dance that was doing excellently well compared to other art forms. We felt not many festivals were happening for dance. Slowly and steadily we started inviting other artists. There was also a little change we were finding in our nature to accept and encourage other artists who were also doing very well because otherwise artists become very competitive. We were now getting some satisfaction and happiness in hosting. Dr. (s) Raja and Radha Reddy Ji are very humble and they never let fame go to their head. According to them, you should be competing with the best to bring out the best from the artist and the art.
Dr. (s) Raja Radha Reddy having popularised Kuchipudi dance not only in India but across the globe, are recognised as the cultural ambassadors of the country. Recipients of Padma Shree award in 1984, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1991, the couple maintain the tradition of the guru shishya parampara and continue teaching Kuchipudi in Delhi in ‘Natya Tarangini’. Are students eager to learn this dance form and what is the vision of Natya Tarangini?
God has been very kind to us and we became more responsible and more conscious of blessings being showered on us. It made us more driven and hardworking. Lots of youngsters are enrolled in Natya Tarangini at a very tender age because parents believe that the classical arts helps them. In dance, the focus is not just on one concept but 7-8 aspects are focused simultaneously. Like footwork - rhythm, foot positions - like when to stand on toes or on heels or are you supposed to open your feet or keep them together in different positions and leg positions. Then we also focus on other details of the body. Like how the hastha mudra or hand gestures should be, how the hand should be kept or how the neck has to be used or only using the eyebrows to express, etc. How many aspects are taught to the child at such a tender age. Because of this the IQ level of the students is very high and they are very focused. The unfortunate aspect of all this is the burden of the academic. Children hardly get time to practice. The pressure of the academic is so much that some of the students enroll out. There are also few students who, after finishing college, feel bad to have lost something beautiful and they return to the dance school. But youngsters nowadays want to do a job as well as pursue their hobbies. All our students are doing excellently well. Our students can give even a professional a good competition and yet they have other interests in life.
All art forms are in a way aimed at spiritual growth, at the same time it is also a social commentary and/or aims to give a spiritual message to the society. Do you feel as an artist it is important to do that, entertain yet connect with the audience both at the spiritual and social level?
Yes, it is very important. As an artist you connect socially through your art. When you are dancing, it’s important to dance for yourself. But what is the point of doing a concert if you cannot entertain the connoisseur or the rasika? You need to understand the pulse of the audience. When you are able to understand the audience, you are able to mesmerize the audience. You cannot be totally in your own world. When you want to dance on a public platform, you need to keep the society in mind. What would go extremely well with the audience? Like in our family, Raja Ji has been practicing this art for 50 years, he is connected to my generation through me, he is connected to the present generation through his daughters, so he knows what would be appropriate for this present time. Raja Ji says, we are like a river, so new water comes and merges into the ocean. But at the same time we have to make sure that the banks are intact. We should give a new look, a facelift to the whole thing but we should not compromise with the base which is our foundation. Alphabets are the same and new writers have emerged with new writing styles. Similarly it is with the arts. For art to survive the present time, we have to be creative and move with the time. Like earlier there were only solos, or duets, or group dances but nowadays artists are showcasing social issues, some are collaborating and creating fusions.
Parampara series is held every year and the essence of promoting the cultural heritage of India becomes stronger with each passing year. Do you feel you get sufficient support for holding such festivals? Do you think the government can do more to preserve our heritage?
When you talk about government support, I think they are doing a good job. However, the government has to take a call about who should be supported. There are so many schools that have mushroomed but who is going to judge? Government cannot do much because they are also a bit lost. Whatever they are doing is not enough for the richness of our art because ours is THE art in the world and the west is looking towards us. The government has to decide who are the serious practitioners and the experts. Maybe they can make an extra effort of supporting so that excellence can be fair. But then the question is who is excellent and who is fair?
What are the few ways in which promotion of good work and artists can be done?
The dance concerts that are happening in Delhi are all free passes and the calibre of an artist will come out if it’s ticketed. Because no rasika or public will go to a concert or will not spend time and money unless they know that they are going for a good concert and the artist is worth watching. In abroad the arts are flourishing because every concert is ticketed. I want to do the same here. But I can’t do it myself because I am scared that the entertainment department will suspect me and ask question regarding - if tickets are sold in black or not or if there were any extra tickets which were sold separately, etc. Half of the mediocre concerts that are coming up nowadays will filter out by itself if the ticketing is done properly with all classical arts. Page 3 magazines cannot tell you who is a great artist. They just report about the name of the artist and type of the programme. Another biggest drawback is that we don’t have good critics. Knowledgeable critics of art and artists are very few nowadays.
Any message to our readers, how in their own way, they can help and promote Indian Classical Arts.
We all should be proud that we are Indians and as an Indian you should know about your roots. What is your identity? What you are? and Where do you belong. Many of my friends have understood the richness of our culture and art when they went abroad. In abroad, they are teaching the vedas and sanskrit which we, in India, don’t do or promote. We take things for granted. We are the richest in the world whether it is - cuisine, fabric, handicraft, art, monuments, nature. What do we lack is in being proud of our country. We lack in showcasing our country in a beautiful way and maintaining our heritage. Why do we depend on government to do everything? Why can’t we take care of these ourselves? Western people are also learning from us. They are taking so much from us because we have a system for everything. We have so much that we can deviate and play western music but they cannot do our Indian classical dance. That is the strong base we have. Actually, you see, we are the mother of everything. We are proud Indians. When we go abroad and we are asked about our land. We are Indian, that is our identity and where does our identity come from? It comes from our culture and belongings. Let’s not make the western world make us aware of it.
Thank you Kaushalya Ma'am for taking out the time and talking to us. Looking forward to the next event of Natya Taringini
and Dr(s). Raja Radha Reddy
Stay tuned for The Dance Bible's exclusive event coverage of the Parampara Series. Coming Soon!