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Nov 12, 2019-Tuesday



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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Golden jubilee celebrations of Reddy’s Kuchipudi dance and passion

As dancer-couple Raja Radha Reddy complete 50 years of being professional dancers, HT City talks to the Reddys about their journey, love for the craft and the turning points of their career.

art-and-culture Updated: Jan 29, 2017 15:07 IST
Nikita Saxena
Nikita Saxena
Hindustan Times
Raja Radha Reddy complete 50 years of being in the field of dance.
Raja Radha Reddy complete 50 years of being in the field of dance.

Think of Kuchipudi and the names that pop into one’s minds are of the celebrated dancers Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy. As Raja Radha Reddy observe 50th anniversary of being professional dancers, they talk about their love for dance and for each other.

On their foray into dancing

Belonging to a family of landlords and agriculture, Raja Reddy was the first one to step into the world of dancing. “In my family, dancing was considered low-class. But I was absolutely mad about the craft. It was same with Radha’s. Her family was also against the idea of her and I being together. They would stop her from coming to my house because I was to become a dancer.”

Not just family, even gurus were unsupportive of Raja. He says, “I went to one of the dance Gurus and he refused to teach me dance. My features were not feminine enough. In those days, one had to have a sharp nose, pretty eyes, a thin waist and fair complexion. They told me to quit dancing, and go back to my village to do agriculture. Luckily, two-three days later, I met my guru Vedantam Prahlada Sarma — he was the perfect master.”

Describing their days of struggle, Kaushalya Reddy, who is also Radha’s younger sister, says, “Didi and he have struggled a lot. In their initial days, they had only one sari to share between them. After he would finish performing, he would change and then she would wear it.”

The couple Raja Radha Reddy moved to Delhi in the year 1966.
The couple Raja Radha Reddy moved to Delhi in the year 1966.

Turning points

Fate took a turn when the couple performed a full-recital in Delhi. “We were the first couple to give a full-length recital of Kuchipudi dance. All national papers carried stories on us saying ‘Andhra dancers storm Delhi’. That changed our fate. The then tourism minister Karan Singh saw one of the articles and organised a program for us at Ashoka Convention Hall. After that, we got out first international performance invite to France.”

When Castro put in a word

Another turning point, as the maestro mentions, is their performance in Cuba. “In 1982, Fidel Castro attended one of our performances in Delhi at the Non Aligned Meet, and loved it so much that we were invited to Cuba for three days to perform,” he says. “Castro was so happy with our performance that in a letter to Indira Gandhi, he wrote, ‘I saw complete India in Raja and Radha’s program.’ When in 1984 we received the Padma Shris, Mrs Gandhi told me that it was because of what Castro had said. And it was another first for us and for dance, because before this, no two persons from the same family had received the award.”

On their love for dance and each other

Raja shares that it is through dance that his family derives joy. “We have been mad about dance all these years. Performances, teaching, starting our own institution, we have done all that we could in dance. And we’re the only family completely dedicated to dance. People from traditional gharanas don’t teach their daughters, but we have taught our daughters. Dance is anandam, joy.”

Talk about his wife Radha, and Raja is quick to reply: “Without Radha, my dance wouldn’t have become so popular. If she weren’t interested in dance, we might have separated. In one of our programs at Kamani Auditorium, we performed pieces where she was Parvati and I was Shiva, she was Sita and I Rama and in the finale, we presented Tarangam where I was Krishna and she was the gopi. After the performance, Dr Sivarama Murthy came on the stage and said: ‘I have seen Shiva and Parvati, prakriti and purusha, Sita and Rama through your dance.’ Radha has been my other half. With her, dance sampurna tha.”

Kaushalya agrees and says, “Even after all these years and such successes, they are still so humble that no one would imagine the heights they have reached. And they’re still as mad about dance as they were 50 years ago.”