Bharatanatyam dancer and alumni of Kalakshetra, Subbulakshmi Rana, speaking exclusively to Natyahasini recalls the words of Kalakshetra senior faculty, Padma Shri Leela Samson to have ‘Shraddha towards the art form’. She shares the simplicity of Leela akka, who was a director, when she was in her third year of study at Kalakshetra. “I was riding a cycle and suddenly I see Leela akka also riding a cycle in the campus to reach her class. Such is her simplicity,” Subbu says.
The Subbulakshmi Nrityashala founder says: “People have to understand that performance is not the only thing. They can be academicians/researchers too. Once a child starts learning dance, their personality changes and allows them to explore themselves.” She emphasises that one need not be a decorated X Mas tree on stage, a performance can be given even in a simple kurta pyjama. “One must have selfless love for the art form. Learn dance for yourself and not to impress people,” she says.
Subbulakshmi started her dance school in 2009 and has been organising annual events, but returning after a two-year pandemic break, her friend Indu Mohan advised her to give a name to her annual event and thus Abhyudaya Utsav, a two-day event to held on June 3&4 was born. “The artists to perform at the event include dancer couple Nidesh Kumar &Indu Mohan, Ashrita Vemuganti Nanduri with her students and myself along with my daughter Laasya Rana,” she reveals.
Dance Journey: Recalling her dance journey, Subbu says that at the age of 11 years she began learning under Guru Sri Kesav Narayan, who was an expert in Nritta, and Smt. Jayalakshmi, who was an expert in Abhinaya. I learnt under them till I completed my graduation from Kasturba Gandhi College. Then I enrolled in Kalakshetra in Chennai for a four-year Diploma course. I was fortunate to join the revered institution. After completing my Diploma, I got selected for Post Graduation despite tough competition,” she says and quickly adds that during Kalakshetra, she was fortunate to have participated in many ballets and programmes thus widening her scope. “I also thought of going abroad and working for a couple of years, but had to change my decision, to tie the knot,” the artist says.
Born into a Tamil Brahmin family and with father in the Army, Subbulakshmi had the advantage of touring the country with her family. After the family decided to make Hyderabad their home and with her urge towards something creative, her parents fully backed her then and today her better-half Pradeep Kumar Rana fully supports her in all her endeavours. Since the day, she established her dance school the response has been good, she says. When questioned if not Bharatanatyam, what would she have learnt, she quickly says: “Martial arts or Chhau.”
Subbu feels that the mindset of parents must change. “Some of them put their kids into the art form, but pull them back once the children are in Class X. They feel that the dance can’t take their wards anywhere. In fact, children take a break from studies and that break can be for dance which will energise them and I have seen that effect on some of my students also. My advice to parents is, don’t pull out your children from dance for Boards,” says the Guru.
Dance Presents Heritage: The artist also points out that getting sponsors for a dance event is difficult. “Dance is nothing but presenting our rich cultural heritage in a different format. The Government and Corporates should sponsor cultural events, so as to protect our rich cultural heritage,” she says. A dance teacher for the senior and middle school students at Hyderabad Public School Begumpet, Subbulakshmi is also a story-teller.
Currently, she is conducting a two-hour story telling session at CCRT as part of summer hobbies. Speaking passionately about the story-telling session, Subbu says: “We categorise each story. A Panchatantra story can be told differently/expressed every time. The children are taught about how to narrate a story, parts of the story, the five Ws, creativity and so on. I may narrate the story in English, but children from the less privileged sections also catch up and retell the story in Telugu with hand gestures and facial expressions,” she says.
For story-telling, her favourite authors include Sudha Murthy, RK Narayan and Harry Potter to name a few. She also talks about Gandhiji’s writings as it is an expression of truth. Before signing off, the dancer says: “Not only my two daughters Laasya and Sasya are learning dance under me, but my brother Chidambaram too loves Arts. My brother who was on a cycling tour sometime back, called me up in the middle of night to share a Yakshagana performance in a remote village in Karnataka.”