Torchbearers of tradition

Dancing stars
Last Updated 16 March 2019, 19:30 IST

Dancer, much-sought-after teacher, performer, alluring choreographer, but above all, a humane being — just about describes Jai Kishore Mosalikanti, a disciple of the legend of Kuchipudi, Padma Bhushan Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam.

“I have learned something priceless from my guru and I need to transmit it so it’s preserved for posterity,” thus, he sacrificed a degree and a steady income to indulge in the passion for teaching and propagating the chosen art form of his guru.

A slender physique “unsuitable” for dance did not deter him from moving across the world with his guru’s ensemble to manage his productions, while absorbing the nuances of stage craft. His guru recognised his talent and conducted his Rangapravesam himself.

The title of Natya Visharadha bestowed upon him by his guru and the words of appreciation are the most precious and unforgettable that he has heard.

Loss of his mother early in life but under the loving care of his elder sister, the need to provide for his father, M S Rao, a violinist, who worked in the Kuchipudi Art Academy, made Kishore take up an opportunity to teach dance abroad. This gamble paid off and became a way of life for him. He is now engaged for about six months a year, teaching in the US, Russia and Europe, conducting workshops and Rangapravesams. Kishore’s choreography is known for its visual appeal, attention to detail and innovation. “I don’t innovate for the sake of it, but I do take inspiration from the large ocean of work my guru has created. I try to put forth my vision without copying him. Symmetry and ease in transition are important to me. There is more beauty in simplicity than in doing too much just to show prowess.”

Influenced by music maestro M Balamuralikrishna, music, he feels is most important for choreography, not the dancer — the inspiration that complements the synergy and symmetry of a movement. Kishore’s first choreography, back in early 2000s, was Saint Purandaradasa’s Arathi, which brings in the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. This Arathi replaces the traditional mangalam, and is a first in a Kuchipudi repertoire serving as a preview for more to come.

Providence visited him in the form of a young Kuchipudi dancer. Padmavani, a student of MSR Murthy from the Kuchipudi Kalakendra, Mumbai, steered the course of his life. He experienced the joys and responsibilities of fatherhood as he looked after his daughters, Sammohana and Sankeerthana. Padmavani dispelled the deep-rooted beliefs about his physique and urged him to resume performing with her. Leela Samson “Akka”, the then director of Kalakshetra, persuaded him to join his ensemble in their show in Kalakshetra. And that was the push he needed.

With their first duet programme in Brahma Gana Sabha, Chennai, in 2010, a brilliant performer was reborn with only accolades to look forward to.

They have been invited to nearly all the dance festivals across the globe, also to perform with their group. “The lack of a ‘good’ physique always made me conscious, but with age, I began looking better,” Kishore quips.

Padmavani was the driving force behind establishing Shivamohanam: The Mosalikantis School of Kuchipudi Dance, with a vision far beyond just imparting training in dance. “Dance needs to be a holistic way of life, a discipline that touches every angle of life.

Teaching our culture and values is just as important as teaching the basic steps,” feels Padmavani. Every year, there have been visiting students from various parts of the world to Chennai to learn Kuchipudi.

The guru-sishya relationship has evolved, too, amongst the new generations in keeping with the changing trends. “In my time, ‘only’ the guru spoke. But now, gurus are spoken to, without inhibitions,” says Kishore. The other titles bestowed on Kishore like Yuva Kala Vipanchee, Nritya Kala Sagara — from the Cleveland Aradhana Committee — and the prestigious Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar Award from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, sit lightly on his shoulders.

Kishore has come a long way from the three-year-old boy who used to accompany his father to the Kuchipudi Art Academy, agog at the multitude of great dancers, the characters and presentations, as he sat mesmerised by the “majestic presence of the guru.”

Imbibing the characters being portrayed, Kishore has experienced the astounding vision of the Goddess herself, walking towards his beseeching arms, while performing the Durga Tarangam in the Chidambaram Natyanjali dance festival some years ago.

What lent credibility to this divine experience was that this was not his vision alone. It was also shared by a policeman watching the show.

May the synergy and chemistry between Kishore and Padmavani enthrall audiences for years to come.

(Published 16 March 2019, 19:30 IST)

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