Course kuchipudi

Course kuchipudi

Shalu Jindal speared her doubts of learning the dance form at an age deemed late with her confidence

It was a chance encounter with Raja Radha Reddy, the stalwarts of kuchipudi, that, yet again, opened doors for Shalu Jindal.

“We were waiting outside the temple of Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati for a darshan. On an impulse, I walked up to them, introduced myself and told guruji that at one point, I was learning kathak but had discontinued it after marriage,” says the kuchipudi danseuse. 

Sitting in the just-inaugurated, plush Jindal Art Institute, the entrepreneur, author and mountaineer smiles while remembering how, a month later, Raja Reddy called her up and said, “Tum meri shishya kab ban rahi ho?” And in response, she enrolled herself as a student of kuchipudi, which originated in the eponymous village of Andhra Pradesh that the Reddys hail from.


“But the skeptic in me wondered if I was the right age to learn dance or learn the form only to keep myself busy? I was almost 30, an age considered far from appropriate to start learning any classical dance,” laughs Jindal. But, skepticism was not a word in the dictionary of her new gurus: Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy. With their guidance and her own perseverance, she became passionate about it.

Within less than three years of her initiation, her guru said she was ready for her ranga pravesham. “That was a great feeling,” remembers Jindal, who is today one of the foremost kuchipudi exponents of India. Having recently performed at LalitArpan, kathak dancer Shovana Narayan’s famous annual dance festival, Jindal confesses that, “Despite having performed the world over, I still get butterflies before stepping onto the stage.”

And now that she’s turned a teacher, Jindal, a firm believer in the guru-shishya tradition, believes that teachers must impart all their knowledge to students. And care needs to be taken not to breach the fine line between criticism and training. And now that her dream project, JAI, is underway, Jindal wants to promote and teach all the classical dance forms, including kuchipudi, to students. She hopes that children, despite being caught up with studies and other activities, give classical dance the respect and attention it deserves. “Parents must also encourage them as learning any creative form helps inculcate discipline, resilience and patience, which motivate you to do well in other streams as well,” she says. 

“It is a myth to say it’s difficult to balance dance and studies,” says the dancer, who has been popularising the dance form through works that “people connect with”... such as Meera bhajans, Sufi music and English poems.

While dance and her institution keep Jindal busy through the day, she takes time out to work on several projects for children. “Being around kids gives you not just an incredible energy, but also lets you dream… The way they dream is amazing,” smiles the current chairperson of the National Bal Bhavan, a Delhi-based institution set up in 1956 to provide a creative platform for children.


Here, Jindal encourages the younger lot to experiment and grow in the varied areas and activities they are interested in. And through “creative and fun-filled projects” such as painting the boundary walls of the bhavan with images from different Indian states and turning the mini-train ride there into a Bharat Darshan, she says she’s been “striving to inculcate values of pride in them about their country and make them appreciate and understand its amazing diversity,” says Jindal who, besides having the 105-feet monumental flag installed at the Bal Bhavan, has also authored several books for children. 

“As a parent, I have always looked for simple, interesting ways to make learning about country a fun exercise. And that is why I try to make their journey with learning an enjoyable one,” she smiles pointing to her books for kids: India — An Alphabet Ride, Tiranga, a coffee-table book dedicated to the national flag, and Freedom, a pocket-sized book of quotes by philosophers, speeches and poems. “Through these, I hope kids understand and appreciate the diversity of India,” says Jindal.

And her most recent feat is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. “I did that for a cause — to collect funds for cancer patients at a hospital in Bengaluru,” she explains.

Mountains, like dance, she explains, “teach you many things — patience, resilience and, above all, to enjoy and live in the moment.”