Come Saturday, 11 March 2023, it will be the Big Day for the young bubbly teenager Avani Upasana Kashyap, disciple of Guru Santosh Kumar Thamang, who will be taking the centre-stage for her solo debut, Arangetram at Shilpakala Vedika. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Avani Upasana Kashyap, says that she has been sincerely preparing for the Big Day since the past three months. And now, after Holi, taking leave from school, Avani is just concentrating on the Arangetram. A Class IX student of Sri Chaithanya Techno School, Avani shares that the confidence that she too was ready for the Big Debut came, last year when Guru Santhosh’s student performed her Arangetram. “When I watched Mitchelle akka perform arangetram, I felt, I too could perform, and discussed with my guru and parents,” she says, and adds that her Guru gave her a practice test in June last. “My Guru asked me to practice more and come back after sometime. It was in October that he tested me again and gave his green signal for my arangetram,” she says.
Avani says: “Right now I am on top of the world and my parents too are happy that I am performing my arangetram this year. In the next academic session, I go to Class X, and God willing the arangetram is happening now, otherwise, I would have to prepare simultaneously for two Big events in my life.” Apart from taking part in many programmes of Shree Narayani Natyalaya over the years since her initiation in 2014, Avani performed solo at the Ayyappa Temple in 2022 October.
The US-born Avani moved to the City of Nizams with her parents Krupa Pranesh and Prof. Sumohana Channappayya and began learning Bharatanatyam after a friend of her grandmother Prabha Sunandana suggested the name of Santhosh Sir to them as her parents were keen that their young daughter learn a classical art form.
Under the able guidance of her Guru, Avani received the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) Junior Scholarship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, for Bharatanatyam in 2021, renewable every year for a period of six years. “Come October this year, I will be submitting what I have learnt to the Ministry and I will be assessed in January next year and this process will continue for a period of six years,” she says. Avani assures that after her arangetram, she will not take a back seat, but take part in dance programmes with more determination and ease as she would have aced the Arangetram.
Speaking about her Guru, Avani says that Santosh mama was a disciple of Vidwan Guru Late T. K. Narayan and Vidushi Late Jayalaxmi Narayan, who are direct disciples of Muthu Kumara Pillai of Kattumanar Koil. “Also, Santosh mama trained under Late Smt. Rajalakshmi Maami (Kolkata), and currently is learning the art form under Guru Gayathri Keshavan (Bangalore). “Santosh mama has trained in Carnatic music under Kamakshi Balasubramaniam (Kolkata) and Mridangam under Vidwan Subramanyam Karra,” she says.
Sharing details about the programme, Avani says: “I will begin the evening performance with Gangai Muthu Nattuwanar’s Ganapathi Kowthwam set in Nattai Ragam and Ekam Talam, followed by the traditional Alarippu in Thisram Talam. Then it will be Jathi Swaram in K.N. Dhandayudha Pani Pillai’s in Khamas Ragam and Roopakam Talam, Venkata Subramanyam’s Saraswati Shabadam in Ragamalika Ragam and Mishrachapu Talam, Muthuswami Dikshitar’s & Tiger Varadachariar’s Pada Varanam in Thodi Ragam and Adi Talam, which will comprise the first half of the programme.”
According to Avani, the second half has specially been curated for her. “In this, I begin with Purandara Dasaru’s Devaranama, which is basically on Lord Krishna, in Ragamalika Ragam and Adi Talam, followed by two kritis – Ambujam Krishna in Shankarabharanam Ragam and Adi Talam and Muthuswami Dikshitar’s composition in Dwijavanti Ragam and Adi Talam followed by Lalgudi G. Jayaraman’s Thillana and end with Mangalam to a composition of Adi Shankaracharya,” she says.
The Music orchestra comprises of Guru Santosh Kumar Thamang on Nattuvangam, Jayakumar Baradwaj on the Vocals, Srinivas Karra on Mridangam, Rayaprolu Sudhakar on Veena, Venkatesh on Flute and B. Ravi Kumar on Ghatam. Avani says, “I will be having two to three practice sessions with the orchestra before the curtain goes up on the final day.”
Avani, who has received basic training in Carnatic music, loves painting and writing poetry and reading books on thrillers, mysteries and Amish Tripathi’s mythologies.
The guests for the evening are Dr. Mythili Maratt Anoop, Professor, Dept. of Fine & Performing Arts, GITAM University, Hyderabad Campus, Dr. Kiranmai Bonala, Sammohana Arts Academy and Prof. J. Balasubramaniam Department of Mathematics, IIT Hyderabad.