Vyjayanti Kashi: ‘Kesava Prasad was a dedicated guru and guide’
I have had a long association with Pasumarthy Kesava Prasad. In fact, he was instrumental in making possible my first visit to Kuchipudi village, which made a huge difference to my dance career.
This village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh was gifted to the Kuchipudi Bhagavata families several centuries ago in recognition and appreciation of their art. Since then, the families here took up the dance form as a profession, practised it with utmost dedication, and propagated it. Sadly, the number of gurus and dancers is dwindling. Nevertheless, some of them have kept the tradition going, despite the many challenges they face.
One such personality, who remained dedicated to the art form till his last days, was Kesava Prasad, son of Pasumarthy Subramanya Sastry.
As a dancer, teacher and choreographer, I feel extremely grateful that he introduced me to some of the finest gurus such as Vedantam Parvateesam, Vedantam Rattaya Sarma, Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma, P.V.G. Krishna Sarma, Chinta Ramanadham and Vedantam Radheshyam.
I trained briefly under Pasumarthy Rattayya Sarma. At that time, Kesava Prasad arranged for my stay in the village and ensured I was served home-cooked meals. He would go to any length to support dancers. During my stay at the village, I had the opportunity to discuss various issues pertaining to art with him. He was keen to make Kuchipudi a heritage village, and to facilitate access to the outside world, especially artistes. He set up a private library that had an interesting and wide collection of books, talapatras, journals, photographs and newspaper articles. In 2017, I took my daughter and disciple Prateeksha to meet him for her MA dissertation.
While most of the gurus of those times spoke only Telugu, Kesava Prasad was probably the only one who could converse in English and that helped artistes from elsewhere to know more about the village and the art form.
In 1983, he established the Akhila Bharata Kuchipudi Natya Kalamandali and organised several dance festivals, inviting classical dancers from across the world to perform in Kuchipudi. I was fortunate to be one of them. The village landscape, the divine ambience, the simplicity of the residents has had a great impact on me as a dancer.
The village is built around the temple of Ramalingeswara and Bala Tripurasundari, and the goddess is the presiding deity of the village. It is customary to recite the hymn ‘Amba Paraaku’ before every Kuchipudi performance.
The writer is a well-known Kuchipudi dancer.
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