HYDERABAD: Few artists have made such a great and enduring contribution to the twin fields of classical dance and cinema as the legendary Kuchipudi dancer, choreographer, dance-director and film-director, Vedantam Raghavayya (1919–1971).So it is fitting that there is a tribute to him and his work on his birth centenary. A tribute is being organised this weekend by Art India Foundation Trust in collaboration with Lasyakalpa Foundation, and Bhagavatamelam Kuchipudi with the support of the Department of Language and Culture, Government of Telangana.
It will see a photography show, book release, music and dance programmes, commemorative postal-cover release, and speeches by well-known personalities from cinema, dance and music who will talk of their memories of this iconic figure and his contribution to the art world. Raghavayya was a brilliant performing dancer, dance-choreographer par excellence, deeply knowledgeable about music, a film-dance director and a much-awarded and highly successful film-maker.
He directed films in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi and most of them earned commercial success and wide critical appreciation. These included Devadas, Anarkali, Suvarna Sundari, Rahasyam, Saptaswaralu, Balanagamma, etc. He also earned praise for being able to make movies in several genres. As a dance-choreographer, he was widely respected by the legends of dance.
Film stars of all three languages spoke highly of him. To give one example. Film superstar Rekha who was his niece used to affectionately refer to him as “my Babai Vedantam Raghavayya” and has often raved about his films in public especially the blockbuster Suvarna Sundari saying that it was both overwhelming and intoxicating for its sheer splendour This film was made in Tamil and also in Hindi where it was a big hit.
Raghavayya hailed from a simple family of traditional dancers in the small village of Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh. His debut performance when he was barely seven years old, earned him a gold medal from the British Government. He later relocated to Chennai. The event will begin on December 20 with the inauguration of a photo exhibition called ‘Reliving Raghavayya ‘s Odyssey’ by D. Purandeswari who is not only a former union minister but also a trained classical dancer.
Well-known film artistes and writers Raavi Kondalarao and Tanikella Bharani will also grace the occasion and all three will talk about their memories of this great man. The exhibition will showcase around 90 rare photographs of Raghavayya collected from various personal and archival sources. Also on display will be stills of scenes from films directed by him and posters of songbook covers. This exhibition will be open until December 22nd. The idea is to facilitate connoisseurs see it at leisure during the weekend, say the organisers.
On 22nd the main event will have music and dance. It will be attended by renowned artists including living legend S P Balasubrahmanyam, actor Jamuna Ramana Rao, and Chinta Seetaramanjaneyulu, the oldest living Kuchipudi guru and the Minister for Culture, Telangana, Sri Srinivas Goud. “We plan to launch a ten-minute promo with clippings from Raghavayya s directorial ventures, interspersed with thoughts of celebrities on him and his work,” say the organisers.
The book to be released is ‘Celebrating Life - A Collection of writings, photographs and reminiscences on Vedantam Raghavayya’, edited by Dr Anuradha Tadakamalla, which includes articles, reminiscences of his life by his contemporaries both in Kuchipudi and cinema, and many photographs and film-posters. The first-day commemorative postal cover will also be released. There will be a screening of select dance choreographies of Raghavayya with a narration on stage to give context, interspersed with live performances of some numbers by renowned dancers like Ashrita and other senior dancers of the city.
Explains of the dancers and dance-teachers who is behind the event, Anuradha (Jonnalagadda) Tadakamalla, Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad explained: “As part of my own research on Kuchipudi and guiding scholars in research, in the past two decades we have been unearthing material that needs to be preserved for posterity. This material has an immense historical value which we sadly don’t recognise or give it its due.
I was guiding my student dancer Katyayani Ganti who worked on Kuchipudi and Cinema and their mutual influences and this work gave us insights into the work of Raghavayya and we became admirers of his immense contributions. This was coupled with the narratives that scholar DSV Sastry brought to us. This is a celebration of aesthetic excellence in cinema, and of Raghavayya, the pride of Telugus.”Entry free and open to all; at Ravindra Bharati.