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The last ‘Bhamalapam’ of Apara Satyabhama Dr Sobha Naidu

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Revisiting ‘Bhama Kalapam’ performance in the memory of Kuchipudi dance Guru Sobha Naidu; She has choreographed many brilliant ballets. However, her portrayal of Satyabhama and Padmavathi in Srinivasa Kalyanam have remained memorable

By RAJESHWARI KALYANAM

After 20 long years, Padmasri awardee, Kuchipudi dancer, Guru Sobha Naidu recreated the magic of ‘Bhama Kalapam’ on stage, much to the delight of her students and dance connoisseurs in December, 2018.

Bhama Kalapam, one of the most important ballets from the Kuchipudi repertoire goes back to 17th century. Sidhendra Yogi wrote the ballet that ponders over the thoughts and inner emotions of beautiful brave, naughty, intelligent and haughty heroine Satyabhama, the love and wife of Lord Krishna. The endearing text that revolves around Satyabhama encompasses love, separation and union of lovers and the sub text of humour and romance making it wholesome. Over the decades the ballet has transformed with time; the most popular version being the abridged version for conceptualised by legendary Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam.

Following on his footsteps had been eminent Kuchipudi dancer and Guru Sobha Naidu who received much acclaim for her rendition of the dance-drama during her hey days. However, it had been a long since Sobha Naidu performed the much-famed ballet on stage. Changing the status quo, after 20 long years, she performed ‘BhamaKalapam’ much to the delight of her students and fans. Organised by Kinnera Arts Academy at Ravindra Bharathi, this version of ‘BhamaKalapam’ was one-hour-40 minutes long and managed to include all the highlights of the original drama. While the lead was played by Padmasri Sobha Naidu, the role of her favourite consort Madhavi was donned by Bhaskar.

The ballet begins with the grand lady entering in regal splendor singing ‘Bhama Ne Satyabhamane’ with her long plait in her hand walking elegantly during PravesaDaruvu describing her beauty and her position as the most favoured wife of Lord Krishna. She goes on to describe how her husband leaves her during a slight disagreement (where she says she is more beautiful than her Lord), and how she pines for him and cannot stand the separation. She reveals her state of mind to her Sakhi, Madhavi and pleads her to go to Krishna and bring him back to her.

The humorous interlude when Madhavi coaxes Satyabhama to reveal her husband’s name, asks reward for her services, the popular pieces like ‘Swagatham Krishna Saranagatham Krishna’, the famous love letter that she writes to the Lord – the entire ballet from beginning to the end – The Mangalam – are all permanently etched in Kuchipudi dance connoisseurs’ memories. Reigniting the memories and bringing back the magic of ‘Bhamakalapam’ as rendered by her Guru, was Sobha Naidu performing an abridged version, 20 years after her last performance.

Ably supported by her students, Sobha Naidu’s rendition whetted the appetite for this much legendary but not so oft repeated traditional ballet. While it is a welcome trend to do newer ballets, it is surely also important to perform traditional ballets, if possible, to live music, to take forward the great cultural inheritance. This was proven once again as the doyen called lovingly by her admirers as dream woman, rendered the sringara, and hasya rasa abhinayam with alpomb bringing back the memories of the yore.

First published in The Hans India

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