Pujita Krishna, a well-accomplished dancer, speaking to Natyahasini reveals that she began learning dance seriously only after college. “I started learning Bharatanatyam as a young girl. But it was a very rudimentary training since being a Forces kid, we were on the move a lot and the initial training suffered setbacks,” says the dancer. She shares that she actually started off, although for a very brief period, with Pasumarthy Vithal gaaru in Delhi. “I was with Rama Devi gaaru later for a short while. It was then that I joined Vedantam Ramalinga Shastry gaaru and then finally came to Dr. Anupama Kylash gaaru. So, I have actually been to several Masters,” she says.
The Kuchipudi exponent confesses that learning under different Masters was difficult for sure, because adjustment takes time and finding the right rapport with Guru is also important. “It is like being in a relationship. Even if it isn’t perfect, it has to be in the vicinity of ‘perfect’. It was an evolutionary process. Be that as it may, I was a different Pujita under each Master. Every association added a layer of learning,” says Pujita.
The Hyderabad Public School English teacher says that on watching Padma Bhushan Swapna Sundari akka perform the rituals in the Ranganathswamy Temple in 2005 motivated her to learn Vilasini Natyam. “Dr. Anupama Kylash was already training under her. We, her students, watched her train under Swapna akka and subsequently perform Vilasini Natyam. We were drawn to it right away. Akka’s genius was impossible to resist. Akka used to come to Hyderabad a lot in those days, so we didn’t really have to go to Delhi, except when we performed with her,” says the Vilasini Natyam dancer.
MFA From Irvine: Pujita refuses to say what she likes, but equally loves both Kuchipudi and Vilasini Natyam. “Although, I feel Vilasini Natyam suits me more, since it has a natural femininity to it. But I have always loved Kuchipudi’s vivacity and unique rhythmic lilt,” she says. The dancer, who pursued MFA in dance from the University of California, Irvine, researched on ‘Revival of Vilasini Natyam at the Ranganathaswamy Temple, Hyderabad. “The Master’s program was a two-year program and it required me to be away from India and my training in Vilasini Natyam. It was important for me that I continued to be connected to Vilasini Natyam even in that period of absence. I also had this desire to contribute to the study and propagation of the dance form,” she says.
The Kuchipudi and Vilasini Natyam dancer says that many times she has thought of pursuing research in Dance. “More so because I genuinely love research. I have made several attempts to do it. Though I have to say, I have also been particular about where I do it from and maybe the universe has other plans for me because it just hasn’t worked out so far! Maybe, a little further down the road, I just might get lucky,” says the dancer.
The English teacher states that she loves dancing in ballets, as a younger dancer. “Under Dr. Anupama Kylash, it meant a lot of laughter, chatter, excitement, samosas and endless tea. All this in addition to the joy of dancing, of course,” she says. Currently, she would prefer performing solo and would collaborate, with other artists if all of them are on the same page, creatively and intellectually.
Taught Kuchipudi: At her dance studio – Feet on Earth, Pujita has taught Kuchipudi mainly, but also taught basic Jazz and Salsa for a few years. She says that other instructors have taught various dance forms like Kathak, Odissi and Hip Hop at the studio over the years.
Pujita puts the record straight to state that she doesn’t think in India, people really understand western dance in the context of concert dance. “Also, neither are we trained in the language. There is Hip Hop and a very misunderstood version of a gymnastic contemporary dance. Barring that, only Bollywood. So, yes, in that respect there is a vacuum where authentic training in the western approach is concerned,” says the founder of Feet on Earth.
The classical dancer calls for more well-equipped performance spaces- of all kinds. “For a city the size of Hyderabad, how many decent dance auditoria do we really have. Affordable yet fitted with the infrastructure needed for concert dance,” she questions. Though Pujita seeks more Government patronage, she also wants private patronage from individuals who have proclivity towards Arts. “There have been some changes yes. We have spaces like La Makaan, Phoenix Arena, but still, I don’t think it’s enough. Also, somehow, we have failed to create an ambience for the flourishing of Arts in Hyderabad, like say you have the December season in Chennai or like the Dover Lane Festival in Kolkata, which needs to be fixed,” urges Pujita.
The Kuchipudi dancer is also an author of ‘Smitten’, a novella. “A completely fictional work, nothing at all to do with dance. I started writing it many years ago as a commissioned work for a publishing house. That deal fell through and I was left with the draft of this book which was still pretty raw. Upon the advice of my cousin who is an editor, I rewrote it several times all over and that’s how the whole thing came about. It is set in Hyderabad and so I would urge all Hyderabadi fiction-lovers to buy it and read it,” requests the Hyderabadi dancer.