Has anyone heard of Nattuvangam Arangetram? It may sound new and many may wonder what it is? Yes, the artist here is making her debut as a Nattuvangam artist. She is none other than Bharatanatyam dancer and founder of Nada Mudra School of Dance, Chaithanya Kusuma Priya. Chaithanya born to Geetha and Late Krishna Moorthy, is the first student performing Nattuvangam Arangetram under Guru Kalaimani RLV Hemanth Lakshman.
Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Chaithanya Kusuma Priya says that the idea to learn Nattuvangam came in 2019 during her maternity break. “The reason I wanted to learn Nattuvangam was to gain adequate knowledge in Rhythmology and train the next generation of artistes understand the importance of tālam and its nuances in dancing. In January 2020, I joined Nattuvangam classes online. Initially, I found it easy as I used to sit and keep tālam during my training days of dance classes. Later, when we went deep into the concepts, I found it very interesting. It’s all about Mathematical calculations. Jāti, Gati, Mātra calculations, Yati, playing Nattuvangam from 1 – 10 counts, playing Jātis at different speeds, cross rhythm, Composing Jatis, space before starting of music or song, Shollukattu frequency and modulations etc., every class a new lesson and it’s an ocean to learn like any other Art form,” she says.
Undergoing training under Guru Hemanth Lakshman, in November, 2020 she joined 50 Jatis challenge conducted by Kalimamani Guru Madurai Ramachandran Muralidharan. Chaithanya emphasises that Jatis are not something that a teacher teaches and students dance to it. “Muralidharan Sir made us understand the calculation or nuances of each and every Jati. As, I was already into Nattuvangam classes, it made me understand jatis, teermanams and its calculations very easy. Most of the Jatis I could make out even before Sir’s teachings,” she says and quickly adds that it helped her to get good grip on taalam. “After learning sessions, we had only practise sessions for about a month. During this time, I used to clarify doubts and calculations of some students who were part of 50 jatis challenge,” the dancer says.
Chaithanya reminds that Nattuvanar K.S. Balakrishnan has spoken about the importance of Nātya gnaanam (knowledge of Dance), Tāla gnaanam (knowledge of tālam), Sangeetham gnaanam (knowledge of music), Sāhitya gnaanam (knowledge of Lirerature) for a dance teacher. “A Nattuvanar plays the set of cymbals known simply as tālam. Learning the rhythm is necessary for a dance teacher and student to understand the nuances of a Jati or spaces between the syllables to choreograph or to set an Adavu or any Nrtta piece,” she says.
The Bharatanatyam dancer explains that Nattuvangam is a mixture of Nātyam and Angam. “The pair of taalams consists of two cymbals made of different kinds of metal alloys. Though cymbals are of various kinds, used in classical and light music, those used in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi are heavier and have a greater responsibilityy. Of the two cymbals the left hand one is made of iron is called as Nalliyam which is referred to Lord Siva and the right hand one is made of brass is called as Chilliyam which is referred to as Goddess Parvathi,” she says. She says that Bharatanatyam boasts of great Nattuvanars like Tanjavur Brothers, Pandanallur Sri Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Melattur Sri Kittappa Pillai, Vazhuvar Sri Ramaiah Pillai and Sri Gangaimuttu Nattuvanars.
Chaithanya shares that the idea of doing Nattuvangam Arangetram came from her Guru Hemanth Lakshman. “Initially, many thoughts crossed my mind. I was inclined to do Nattuvangam for my senior-most student and we began training. But due to personal reasons the student couldn’t continue. My Guru then suggested that I perform for his disciple Kumari Hari Priya Pranesh. Later, Hyderabad-based Kuchipudi dancer Jyothi Reddy suggested that I also do Nattuvangam for Kuchipudi too. I lapped it as bonus and my Guru to supported me.
When questioned whether she will do Nattuvangam for dancers, who are not her students, she answers diplomatically that she will decide when an opportunity arises. “It was a good opportunity to learn Kuchipudi jathis. In my nattuvangam arangetram, there will be both Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi performances,” she says before signing off.
Catch Chaithanya Kusuma Priya perform Nattuvangam at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, King Koti on Sunday 7 August 2022 at 5.30pm. She will be accompanied by her Guru RLV Hemanth Lakshman, Sri Bijeesh Krishna on Vocals, Kalāmandalam Charu Dutt on Mridangam, Raghunandan K on Flute and dancers Hari Priya Pranesh (Bharatanatyam, Disciple of Sri RLV Hemanth Lakshman) and Tharishya Reddy (Kuchipudi, Disciple of Smt. Jyoti Reddy).