Natyahasini catches up with Bharatanatyam dancer Hari Mangalampalli and his life partner and Carnatic vocalist Dr. Swarna Mangalampalli, who are popular in the Hyderabad Cultural circles. The couple beautifully lend support to one another in every sphere – they portray the fact that behind every successful man, there is a woman and vice-versa. As a team, the couple run the Suswara Academy of Performing Arts training budding singers and dancers.
The couple has traversed 14 years of marital life, on how they came together, Dr. Swarna says that theirs is not a love marriage and she often comes across this question. “We just got to know through a common relative,” says Dr. Swarna. But Hari Mangalampalli shares that while pursuing Masters in Dance at the University of Hyderabad, he always felt there was a vacuum for a singer for dance and his mind made it a point to look for a singer as a life partner. “As I was also trained for five years in classical vocal singing, and music was always there in the family as our family name suggests Mangalampalli,” says Hari.
The Bharatanatyam dancer says that the great Maestro Dr. Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna being a distant relative also added to our wedlock. “After our wedding date was finalised, we had four months gap and that led us both singing duets on stage in various events organised by Swarna. And things followed and Swarna entered my life in 2006 and we have completed 14 years of marriage,” says Hari. Dr. Swarna says that being from a family of artists, they all did feel excited to know that Sri Hari Mangalampalli was a dancer. “And of course, we were fascinated by the ‘surname’,” she admits.
Both Concepts Enjoyable: The Carnatic vocalist has sung twice or thrice for her husband’s ensemble. On singing for a dance programme and in a music programme, Dr. Swarna says: “The difference is about the ‘freedom’ of performing in an extempore and I feel that both the concepts are enjoyable in their own particularity.” The musician teaches her daughters music, but hasn’t lent her voice to them. “I did not sing for my children till now, but surely await the opportunity,” she says.
Hari Mangalampalli says it’s a delight to teach his children, and at the same time it’s a challenge too to bear their mood shifts and convince them to learn! “As a family we have all performed on a couple of online shows in 2020. On stage, it was at Shilparamam that we performed way back in 2018 for Guru Purnima Celebrations organised by Sanjay Kumar Joshi ji,” says the dancer.
If any Bharatanatyam or Kuchipudi dancer, requires a male dancer to portray Shiva, Rama or a sage, one can find Hari Mangalampalli lending able support, be it in the city or outside. “I have donned the characters of a sage, a soldier, a king, a minister, a sutradhar (narrator) and many more. The practice varies from two days to five days depending on the character and the time schedule given to a dancer,” he says with a smile, adding: “Ballets are lively, full of life and colour.”
Sharing his childhood days in Kolkata, Hari reveals that he was fascinated by watching and dancing on the songs of ‘Shankarabharanam’ and ‘Sagara Sangamam’. His parents had lived in the City of Joy for over 25 years, but still couldn’t find a good teacher in the 80s. “Music, Telugu literature and cultural influence was always there in the family. My parents have also been into stage dramas in Telugu association in Kolkata! So, there was more of encouragement to learn and watch,” he says.
Thanks All Gurus: The Bharatanatyam dancer thanks all his gurus – Prof. Pasumarthi Ramalinga Sastry as he opted for Bharatanatyam discipline at the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, UoH. Prof. Anuradha, Dr. Aruna Bhikshu, Dr. Sivaraju, for teaching other subjects related to dance. “It was a gain for me to learn many things with all of them that had shaped me into what I am today,” says Hari.
Dr. Swarna began learning Carnatic music under Late Vidwan Susarla Sivaram, who was working as a music lecturer at Ramkote Music College. The learning continued with the eldest of Hyderabad Brothers, Vidwan Sri D. Raghavachari garu and also from Sri D. Seshachari garu. “The most memorable moment was when Raghavachari garu mentioned my name in their interview given to Doordarshan, on the occasion of being awarded the Sangeet Nataka Academy Award, in the list of his ‘students who made him proud’,” she says with a smile.
Hari, who teaches Dance at the Delhi Public School, Secunderabad, says that when it comes to teaching students in a school the mindset and interests vary. “We only ensure that they are exposed to the Arts and develop appreciation towards the art at the First level. And then slowly make them understand the advantages of learning the Classical Arts and so on so forth,” he says. The dancer agrees that girls are more inclined to dance. “When it comes to western dance, we see an equal number of boys and girls. It started as an activity-based teaching but reforms that underwent in CBSE Curriculum had made it subject-based as the scores are added to their main subjects for Grades 8 to 10,” says the dance instructor.
Art Wins: The Bharatanatyam dancer is a school co-ordinator for SPICMACAY. Sharing a challenge, he says that he had to train 50 children for a thematic dance presentation in a given span of time to present for an annual day! “Though I have my colleagues for support. Once it so happened that one colleague had to quit his job for personal reasons and the additional workload of training his set of students fell on me. Glad I could handle it well and came out successfully with proper planning and execution,” says Hari.
The musician did her thesis in ‘The Study of Sangita Swara Prastara Sagaramu’ written in the year 1914 by Sri Nadamuni Panditar. Dr. Swarna calls for increase in number of local organisations patronizing Carnatic music and improve in quality. Before signing off, she says: “Fine Arts are a Gift from the Almighty and hence are always Divine. Respecting the Divinity in those arts will make the process of learning easier and simpler.”