Hailing from a family of Musicians, Kuchipudi dancer Sai Lahari Devagupthapu stepped into the World of Dance at the age of 12, with the support and encouragement of her grandmother Smt. Subhadra Dutt. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Sai Lahari acknowledges that learning Kuchipudi was not her first preference back then. “But now, it definitely is. I was initially indulged into many co-curricular activities like badminton, throw-ball and many other sports. At that time, my keen interest was in Carnatic music. I was also part of Balavikas and rendered my services as best as possible at the feet of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and also took part in many social welfare activities,” she says. Sai Lahari states: “I belong to an artists’ family. My mother and my maternal grandmother are both Carnatic singers as well as instrumentalists.”
Sai Lahari, who has written her name in the Book of Records like – Wonder Book of Records, London Book of Records and Guinness Book of Records, says today her identity is through dance only. “Dance has become a part of my life. My thirst for dance can never be quenched. I pray to God that, till my last breath I’m connected to the Supreme God through dance, because, in my view dance is the only language you can connect with God,” she says.
Remarkable Gurus: The Kuchipudi dancer and instructor shares that her first guru was Mrs. Renuka Prabhakar Garu. “She encouraged me in every possible way to flourish as a good dancer. She is not only my guru, but also, my guide and well-wisher. She is an extraordinary person. Today, whatever I am, it is only because of her. I am always indebted to my guru,” she says. The dancer says that to pursue her Masters, she enrolled in the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University and came in contact with Mrs. Ratnasree Sudhakar Garu, who was her second guru. “She inspired and motivated me to excel. Her performance as well as dedication in emoting the character of Satyabhama in Bhamakalapam is a visual attraction, which inspired me to learn,” confesses the dancer.
Sai Lahari says that she has many memorable memories with her Gurus. “With my gurus, I have been to many places for dance programmes which made our bond even stronger, like a mother and daughter. Initially, when I joined the classes, we used to perform at local places. But when my father gave an opportunity to our Academy to perform at Secunderabad Ganesh Temple that was our stepping stone for success,” she says. The Abhinaya expert says that very soon they started performing at various places and temples all over India. “I have many wonderful memories during those visits with my guru Renuka Prabhakar Garu. Also, I share a very special bond with my guru Ratnasree Garu. When I was going through a bad period, she supported me to come out of it,” she says.
Spiritual Experience: The dancer says that her experience in Amrita Vidyalaya in Hyderabad cannot be expressed in words. “It’s a spiritual journey which is actually suitable to my personality. I had students from different cultures in the school. I was able to manage around 100 students in a class with utmost discipline. I made sure that all the students were active throughout the session, which is what I ultimately needed. I strongly believe that mere education cannot bring about success, but morals, ethics, values and discipline in life brings about success,” she states.
The Kuchipudi dancer had never thought of pursuing her Ph. D. when she started her dance career. “But when I started my Masters in Kuchipudi Dance, the idea of pursuing Ph. D. gripped me. it’s the only goal I have now. I always wanted to write a book and pursue thesis on a specific topic in Kuchipudi dance and contribute to the field of dance,” she shares.
Love Performing In Temples: Sai Lahari’s first love is to perform in Temples. “Dance is the only language to communicate with God. Through Natya Seva, I speak with the Supreme God,” she says. The dancer confesses that another dance form that she would like to pursue is Odissi. “May be, with God’s grace and if time, health and wealth permit, I would learn.” Sharing details about her family, Sai Lahari says that her father D Samba Siva Rao, mother D Aruna and sister D Lakshmi Priya have stood by her like Solid Rock and extended their support in all their endeavours.
According to Sai Lahari, about 14 students have performed their Rangapravesham under her guidance from her school Nritya Sanskaar – The Dance Parampara. The Nandi awardee says that Art is a blessing. “It must be taken seriously and given importance. Children should be encouraged to take up any art form as their hobby, which can actually become their passion,” she says. The dancer also calls for following the true traditional Guru-Shishya parampara and not pollute it. “God knows whom to gift what, so never repress anyone and never be jealous of anyone’s success,” says the artist, before signing off.