One of our faculties from School of Arts Design & Media Studies, Ms Abhinaya Nagajothy, a renowned Kuchipudi dancer, performed at Khajuraho festival on 21 Feb, 2014. She has shared her experience of Khajuraho festival and how she felt for being a Kuchipudi dancer.
What is your definition of dance??
Dance according to me is the energy required to live. It is not a jumble of movements to a rhythm but is a continuous discourse that brings mind and body together. Sage Bharata in his 2000 year or treatise on drama, Natya Sastra says
natat gyanam natatchilapam nasa vidya nasakalaI
nasau yogou natatkarma natyesmin yannadrisyate II
This means that there is nothing in the world that is not found in Natya. It has knowledge, scriptures, education, arts and yoga. Dance is an amalgamation of all knowledge for me and gives a confidence to lead life peacefully. It gives an in-depth understanding of our culture and becomes a means to express myself through Mudras and Bhava. It liberates the soul from the pains and pleasures an extremely materialistic life that we live in and introduces actual self. It teaches the long lost traditions and practices that were considered sacred by our ancestors. It throws light on religion and caste enhancing our knowledge of the social systems that existed during the inception of the art, Kuchipudi in particular.
How do you keep balance between your profession and dance?
Well, to begin with I consider that like generally people have one profession, I have two. This thought drives me lead life from within. Kuchipudi has been with me even before I was born. My Gurus also happen to be my parents, Guru Seetha Nagajothy and Guru Nagajothy who get married under the aegis of Kuchipudi gurukul at Chennai. I saw hundreds of Shiyas being trained by my parents at our residence and Delhi Tamil Sangam, some of whom also became stalwarts of Kuchipudi. I aspired to be one since I can remember myself. So I think Kuchipudi was within me before I could decide what my career was. My education in Delhi University and Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan lead my work experiences at The Hindu newspaper and Prasar Bharati were only add-ons to my life that came in much later period to Kuchipudi. So balancing is not something new for me since I have been doing to from my schooling at D.T.E.A. Sharda University however gave me an avenue to explore the challenging task of capturing the intellect of young minds. This, I think is one of the most intriguing of all professions since it makes you work and push yourself harder not only to understand and explain the subject to the student but also experiment new ways to communicate the information.
In the generation of comedians and MTVs what is the future of Kuchipudi?
Kuchipudi and other ancient arts have survived through many centuries, through dominations of many rulers, some who patronized them, some who abolished them. These arts as we know them today have adapted and changed their narratives according to the era they are found in. I think this is the most fascinating thing about Kuchipudi. TV and Bollywood are just the same wine in new bottles. Despite the sudden media boom, Kuchipudi has survived till today. Many youngsters are taking up Kuchipudi to learn it and teach it to others. It did survive till today, I have no doubt about its bright future.
According to you what can be done to have the influence of ancient Indian culture on new generation?
I think, new generation has its hold on this ancient Indian culture in their own way. I can see that when I enter into a class, the students of this generation are polite to get up and pay respect to the teacher which you seldom find in other cultures. There are many youngsters who touch feet of their elders even today. Therefore ancient Indian culture is not something that is rigid and restrictive but is something that is ongoing, flamboyant and changing. Culture changes time to time and Indian culture is known to have adapted, engulfed and welcomed other cultures with open arms. Change is the only thing that is constant. This generation is not afraid to hide itself in hypocrisy but is quite exposed to the world and unafraid to keep their views in open.
Tell me your experience not as a performer but as viewer of Khajurao festival?
I have always seen Khajuraho as a performer like any other classical dancer. It is difficult to give the other side because the person on the other side would give a justifiable answer. So I choose to speak as a dancer. From time unknown our Kings and Queens have known to patronize several forms of arts, dance, drama, music, painting, sculpture, architecture etc. It gives the kingdom a sense of identity that differentiates it from others and gives superiority. Similarly Khajuraho is the result of the Chandela dynasties love towards all these arts and more of the urge to create something that had not been created yet. There is a legendary tale that I heard from an elder. In old times, there lived a king who wanted to sculpt a beautiful sculpture. He went to the master of all sculptures to become his student. The master asked him if he knew dancing. The king told that he has not learnt any dancing. The master asks him to learn dancing first and then come back to learn sculpting. The king meets the master of all dances and asks to take him under his aegis. The master of all dances enquires if the king understands rhythm. The king says he has no knowledge of rhythm. The master in turn asks him to learn rhythm. The king finds the master of all drums to teach him rhythm, where he is told to learn music first. He now finds the master of all music, who initiates the learning for the King. Khajuraho is essentially this amalgamation of knowledge. The sculptures had an in depth understanding of all these arts which comes alive at Khajuraho wrapped in a religious & sacred space- the temple. We danced in the background of the sacred space but were placed in the profane amongst common people. I think it symbolically represents the shift and development of the society through ages of struggle between the people belonging to both the spaces. It was an unforgettable experience.
Tell us something about your parents?
As I said my Gurus happen to be my parents than vice-versa. Kuchipudi existed in me before my existence. They both come from different states, Amma from Andhra and Appa from Tamil Nadu and also from different castes. They also defied the traditional gap of Guru Shishya, since my Appa was my Amma’s dance disciple. They both married and decided to settle in Delhi and started propagating Kuchipudi for the love of the art. I am also proud and lucky that they never made it as business and saw art as art. They taught me the peace in feeling content in the minimum and encouraged me to explore and make my own path in life. I owe them not just my birth but also giving me the meaning to live life peacefully.
How you are feeling after khajurao experience?
Khajuraho was dream come true. Dancers long to be part of this prestigious festival. It treated me with incredible respect and win admiration of huge numbers of hearts that otherwise is not found in many dance festivals throughout India that I have seen. Khjuraho was a treat to my soul.