CHENNAI: The haleem mania may have affected Chennaites too. Before the picture of scrumptious dish from Hyderabad pops up in your head, we are talking about Haleem Khan, the renowned Kuchipudi dancer from the land of haleem, who has made both small and silverscreen beauties master the art of mudras and vinyasams.
Haleem was in Chennai on Saturday to perform as well talk at the INK Talks. What makes him stand out is not just that he has performed in over 900 shows so far, but they way om which he delivers Kuchipudi. He transforms himself into a woman (rupanu rupam in Sanskrit), which is an ancient style of the dance form. His topic for the INK talk was ‘Reviving the culture.’
“I spoke on how I researched about ancient culture and made this dance form relevant for the current generation. The reception was tremendous. I liked the way they had appreciated art and its worth,” he smiles.
Haleem met many successful people from different fields at the event. “I met Mukund Govind Rajan, who is a member of group executive council and brand custodian of Tata Sons. He is s a living Wikipedia,” he explains.
Elaborating on the female impersonation, Haleem says, “It is an ancient style of Kuchipudi started by a group of Brahmins (male) as all the roles and characters in the story were depicted traditionally by male dancers only. With time, the art form too changed. But I want to bring the essence of ancient style back in form.”
He firmly believes it’s necessary to carry forward the legacy to next generation. “It shouldn’t be confined to just text books. I am trying hard to keep this traditional aspect of Kuchipudi alive.”
About the challenges he faces, he says, “It is not a cakewalk for a man to transform into a woman. I often get laughed at but I am determined to stick to the age-old tradition. It’s also a supreme test of an artist’s capabilities to be able to perform both as a male an a female.”
Haleem started pursuing his childhood dream of learning Kuchipudi when he was 15, without a guru. Yeah, he learned it all by himself at his home town, Ongole. “It has been 17 years since I began but I want to explore more, and also learn more... in fact, I want to keep learning all my life,” he laughs.
What’s his best memory of being on stage? “My favourite memory is the female impersonation I did for the first time at Guntur. The second was when my parents attended for the first and last time,” he recalls.