From K.V.’s ‘Srutilayalu’ To ‘Navajanardhana Parijatam’

Andhra Natyam exponent Sanjay Vadapalli, who is based out of Hong Kong, is in the city of Hyderabad to perform ‘Navajanardhana Parijatam’ (prabandha tradition), the ancient temple dance form of Telugu regions, Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema, on the occasion of the Birth Centenary of Bharatakalaprapoorna Padma Shri Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, the Andhra Natyam exponent Sanjay Vadapalli, says that he teaches both Andhra Natyam and Perini, but performs only Andhra Natyam, and mainly Navajanardhana Parijatam. “I am here in Hyderabad this time to perform the prabandha tradition, Navajanardhana Parijatam. I have learned this art from none other than Padma Shri Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna garu and later from Guru Kala Krishna garu. My gurus have trained me so methodically taking care of minutest details for over five years and made me worthy exponent of Satyabhama’s role as depicted in the solo ballet ‘Navajanardhana Parijatam’. This time, I will be presenting a new interpretation of this prabandha tradition, which has been specially choreographed by my Guru Kala Krishna garu. There are new interpretations and songs too, and I have been working on it since September 2022 online and personally since the last fortnight,” he says. 

Talking about ‘Navajanardhana Parijatham’, the artist says: “Navajanardhana Parijatham is a variety of Kalapam (dance ballet) unique to Telugu dance tradition which used to be performed in nine Janardhana temples of East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh namely, Kotipalli, Korumilli, Machara, Kapileshwarapuram, Mandapeta, Alamuru, Jonnada, Madiki and Dhavaleswaram. In the Kunti Madhava Swamy temple of Pithapuram, a former zamindari estate, it was danced for nine consecutive nights and on the 10th day, the valedictory function was performed consisting of the recitation of the “Dasama Skanda” (tenth canto) of Maha Bhagavatam,” he says. The artist further goes on to say that Smt. Pendela Sathyabhama was the last temple dancer of Kunti Madhava Swamy temple who performed this art and Late Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna garu brought this very popular form to the stage under the title ‘Navajanardhana Parijatam’, depicting the episode of Satyabhama’s angry banter with Lord Krishna.

Giving more insight into the Andhra Natyam, Sanjay says: “It is an Eka Patra Kelika, that was performed solely by female artists and used to be performed in Buddhist aramas, temples, and royal courts. Andhra Natyam was formerly known with different names like Aradhana, Kacheri, Darbar, Kelika, Chinna Melam, Mejuvani, and Dasi Ata. It’s a combination of Agama, Asthana, and Prabandha traditions, which a female artiste can showcase on the same stage and in the same performance. Andhra Natyam repertoire includes Agama, Asthana and Prabandha Nartana traditions,” he says.

Sanjay states that as ‘Navajanardhana Parijatam’ is a known story, it is challenging to play the role of a female. “A male dancer has to feel, express and emote the woman character. Also, for me it is getting into the teeth of the character, and bringing out all the complex qualities of Satyabhama,” he says.

Taking a trip down memory lane, Sanjay says that he began learning Andhra Natyam and Perini from Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna at the age of eight and mastered the lasya and tandava traditions in Indian classical dance. “As a child, I had the opportunity of acting in Director K. Vishwanath’s ‘Srutilayalu’, thanks to my guru, where I played the role of a son to veteran actor Late Satyanarayana garu, where I had the opportunity to sing and dance. Since I began playing the role of a Satyabhama, since the age of 13 years, after looking at my picture in a newspaper, somebody from the film fraternity approached me to play the role of Menaka. Which I had to turn it down and then gave it to a co-dancer,” says the exponent, with a smile. 

With many accolades under his belt, Sanjay, a ‘B’ Grade artist of Doordarshan is well-known for his Nritta, Nritya and Abhinaya and has performed all across the country and globe and has won laurels from other dance exponents like Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Birju Maharaj, Sitara Devi among many others. 

Sanjay did his schooling at St. George’s Grammar School, Abids, B. Sc from Nizam College and pursued MBA in Human Resources from Indira Gandhi National Open University and picked up a job with HSBC and has been working with them close to two decades. “I have worked in various capacities with the organisation across various cities and currently for the last six years, I am stationed at Hong Kong as an Associate Director. Also, my organisation encourages art and over the years, I have been able to balance my work and passion. There have been times when I have returned as late as 11pm and practiced and then shown up at work at 9am,” he says, which only goes to prove that a truly committed person can find his way, rather take shelter under lame excuses. 

With a Diploma in Classical Dance and a gold medallist in Abhinaya as Satyabhama, Sanjay has over 600 performances and the current city, he lives in provides him lot of opportunities to practice. “In Hong Kong, there are lot of public parks and one can go there and practice. You have spontaneous visitors and some of them come up and want to know the details of what you are doing,” he says. Sanjay runs a dance school titled ‘Nataraja Rama Krishna Nritya Niketan’, where he teaches Andhra Natyam and Perini. “Now that we have resumed normal activities, I plan to take classes regularly,” he says. Sanjay, who has the complete backing of his family, consisting of his parents – mother Vijaya and father Siva Ramakrishna and wife Lakshmi, wants to institute a scholarship in the memory of his guru, wherein desired youngsters can learn the art form. “I want to start scholarship in the memory of my Late Guru Dr. Nataraja Rama Krishna garu and every year, may be one student or three, learn the art form – can be a couple of pieces or what they desire. There will be a due process to this before an artist is picked,” he says. By starting an annual scholarship, Sanjay wants to popularise Andhra Natyam on the national and international platforms on par with Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. 

At the Navajanardhana Parijatham presentation at PSTU auditorium on Sunday, 22 January 2023, Sanjay Vadapalli will be accompanied by Acharya Shri Kala Krishna on Nattuvangam, Smt. Rama Jagannadh on Vocals, Shri Janardhan B on Mridangam, Shri Dattatraya on Flute, Shri Sashi Bhushan on Violin, Shri Veera Swamy on Percussions.

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