Beacons of LightFeatures

KV Satyanarayana: An Ambassador of Kuchipudi in Foreign Lands

Text: Paul Nicodemus

Contrary to the Telugu proverb ‘Inta gelichi, racha geluvu’, meaning one needs to win the appreciation at home before tasting success outside, he has won appreciation outside and then received appreciation at home. He has been propagating the classical art of Kuchipudi on foreign land for the last 30 years.

Karothi Venkata Satyanarayana was born to Venkata Ramanamma, Guruvulu on 26 September 1957. Right from his childhood, he liked to dance. Whenever there was a song on the radio, he danced. As days passed by he became fond of Satyabhama’s character. He read and heard many beautiful things about Krishna and Satyabhama. He was so inspired to play the character of Sathyabama that he learned Kuchipudi dance.

While pursuing his B.Com degree, he along with some of his friends to start a cultural institute titled Kala Bharathi in 1974. They presented Menaka Vishwamitra composed by Korda Narasimha Rao master. Satyanarayana played the role of Menaka. The story has folk dance sequences and they needed a lyricist to pen down lyrics. Despite approaching several people, they could not get the lyrics and that was when Satyanarayana wrote a song. He wrote a song and gave it to the music director Buddha Dev. The music director enquired about the lyricist and he told him a senior writer wrote it and he composed it. That was how he wrote. He wrote for Mallika, a folk dance ballet during his second year B.Com and it turned out to be a hit.

He continued to write and wrote Kuchipudi items ‘Shiva Leelalu’, ‘Girija Suthunanku’, ‘Sivathandavam’, ‘Anjani Suthuda’ and ‘Sri Rajagopal’. HMV recording company recorded and released them as ‘Kuchipudi Natya Sowrabhalu’. Many young artistes used them in their shows.

His versatile repertoire also comprised of several performances as a theatre artiste. He has donned the role of a heroine in social dramas like ‘Chillarakottu Chittamma’, ‘Nirmala’, ‘Sikander’, ‘Palli Training’, ‘Oorummadi Brathukulu’, ‘Sipochindi Natakam’ and ‘Athudhavullu Vastunnaru’. He won the Best Actress Award in an intercollegiate drama competition organised by Hindu College Guntur. Famous film Director Dr K Viswanath presented it.

His uncle Majji Rama Rao, an accomplished stage artist, another uncle Korada Narasimha Rao impacted Satyanarayana’s artistic interest. Narasimha Rao was the first person who took Kuchipudi to the US and European countries. Adusumilli Chandra Sekar, a stage actor and director, Dr K Mohan Rao, his master have played a role in he becoming an artiste. His cousins Vijaya and Raghava and sisters Durga and Pushpa supported him in his journey.

Korada Narasimha Rao taught him important items in Kuchipudi like Bhamakalapam, Alamelumanga Vilasam, Mohini Bhasmasura, Adhiparasakthi and Menaka Viswamitra, and also accompanied him. He encouraged him a lot after he started Sri Satya Kuchipudi Janapada Nritya Academy to teach Kuchipudi dance and folk dances. Narasimha Rao performed with him under his banner. He was someone who encouraged and transformed Satyanarayana. He also learnt few Kuchipudi pieces from Vedantam Prahlada Sarma, a scholar.

Cultural department of Andhra Pradesh organised a Kuchipudi workshop at Kuchipudi village for young Kuchipudi gurus. Padma Bhushan awardee and Kuchipudi reformer Master Vempati Chinna Satyam conducted the 3-month workshop. Vempati, known for his meticulous instruction style gave them good training. “I liked his teaching, beautiful compositions, melodious music, rich costumes and stage properties. He propagated Kuchipudi all over the world,” he says.

Satyanarayan composed and played pure trational Kuchipudi items and dance ballets like ‘Amruthamadhanam Jakkula Purandhari’, ‘Natakuranji Varanam’, ‘Kshira Sagara Sayana’, ‘Endharo Mahanu Bhavulu, empinan mansutho’, Tyagaraja Kirthans, Mandodhari Sabhdam, Ahi Murari, Pralaya payodi jala, Sritha kamala kucha mandala of jaydeva astapadees.

He has been teaching these traditional items and ballets both in India and abroad. He has also been conducting workshops. For the last 30 years, he has been visiting the United States of America in every summer for 3 to 4 months to teach and present Kuchipudi dance. Most probably, the only person who has been doing it for so many years.

Apart from the dance he likes movies and choreographed for some claimed classical movies such as Sruthilayalu and Swarna Kamalam directed by Dadasaheb Phalke and Padma Shri awardee Dr K Viswanath.

He also likes being involved in social work and promotion of Indian culture. So associated himself with some social organisations to serve people and culture. Whenever he finds free time, he likes to spend it with his sisters, nephew and niece. He has been an avid traveller and prefers visiting holy and historic places. He is a lover of nature.

Satyanarayana is a pure vegetarian and watches what he eats. Dance is his best form of exercise. He wants to be a dancer till his last breath.

Choreographing ‘Pancha Kanya’ dance ballet was his challenging moment. Receiving Nandi for the Best Choreography given by the Government of Andhra Pradesh through the hands of the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr NT Rama Rao was one of his most memorable moments in life.

He has received many awards and some include ‘Kala Ratna’ Hamsa Award 2009 by Government of Andhra Pradesh; ‘Pratibha Puraskaram 2013’ by Potti Sriramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad; ‘Visista Seva Puraskaram’ in 2008 Given by Government of Andhra Pradesh; ‘Gandapenderam’ (a golden anklet) by Indian Association at Impala, Manipur; ‘Swarna Kankanam” (golden bracelets) at Youngstown, Ohio, USA; Andhra Pradesh State Nandi for the Best Choreography for the film ‘Sruthilayalu’ in 1988 and Excellence awards by Telugu Associations in the UK, Singapore, USA and Canada.