Madhavi Latha Marellapudi (Nistala), Bharatanatyam Guru and founder of Thillana Arts, in a chat with Natyahasini shares that the scenario of both learning and teaching has changed from early 1980s to the current period. “Students are into more than one art and ‘yes’ some are able to manage very well, but most of them end up with everything once they are into high school because of multiple factors,” she says.
The Bharatanatyam guru says that in present times some parents expect instant results and sometimes few Teachers need to adjust their teaching methodology accordingly which is not very satisfying though. “When I was a student under Sri Rukmaji Rao garu, my parents hardly met my teacher for enquiring about my progress. They had trust in the Teacher and never ever questioned him irrespective of the time period taken by him for training us,” she says.
In comparison, Madhavi Latha says: “Parents these days have no patience. They expect that their child should reach a goal (set up by them) before they reach 10th grade and then turn their entire focus into academics. How can a Teacher who concentrates only on 25 students teach and get satisfied?”
Learnt Kuchipudi too: The Thillana Arts founder, who learnt under two stalwarts – Gurus Sri A. Rukmaji Rao and Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry, says she was fortunate to learn under them, who always spent time on grooming students. Replying on whether, the thought of learning Kuchipudi did ever occur to her, Madhavi Latha clarifies: “I did learn Kuchipudi under both Sri Rukmaji Rao garu and also Sri Satya Kumar garu for some time, but I wanted to focus in Bharatanatyam and continued with it.” The dancer says that she has taken part in ballets under Guru Rukmaji Rao garu like ‘Gautami Vaibhavam’, ‘Ramayanam’ and ‘Doctorji’ (Life of RSS founder, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar) in Bhopal, Trivandrum, Visakhapatnam and Rajahmundry. However, she has not taken part in ballets under Ramalinga Sastry garu.
Sharing what was her favourite piece that was a must in every presentation of hers, the Post Graduate from University of Hyderabad says, “It was Gitopadesam taught by Sastry garu”. She also states that she has not helmed any ballets but has done a thematic presentation on Bhakti. “I have done many choreographies relevant to the Bharatanatyam Margam,” she says.
Madhavi Latha, replying to whether she quit performing on stage to mentor students, says that hailing from a lower middle-class family, her situations were different and difficult and she had a long break of 12 years after her post-graduation and never thought of performing again. “With the motivation given by Sastry garu, I took up teaching,” she says.
Dance Study Must: The dancer is all for study in dance. “A dancer needs to be educated with not only presenting pieces on stage, but also in the aspects of Tala, music and mythology to develop as an independent artist,” she says. An auditioned artiste of Doordarshan, Hyderabad, Madhavi Latha completed her diploma in Bharatanatyam from Andhra Pradesh Education Department, in 1990, and Master of Performing Arts, University of Hyderabad, in 1994.
As a student, Madhavi Latha received first prize in inter-college competitions held at Andhra University and represented the same in inter-university competitions at Calicut. She also represented Andhra University in National level group performance competitions hosted by Madurai Kamaraj University. She turned up for University of Hyderabad in inter-zone competitions held at Mangalore and received first prize and took part in the South Zone in Yuva Sangeet Nritya Mahotsava held at Ujjain.
She is mentoring over 25 students, and they have done her proud by taking part in various events. Some of them include Sankranthi Sambaralu & Dussera Utsavalu at Shilparamam, Madhapur, Ganapathi Navaratri Utsavam in Sri Yogeeswara Venkateswara Devasthanam, BHEL, Hyderabad, International Children’s film festival, at Shilparamam, Golden jubilee event of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Hyderabad, and at Annamayya Vedika, R.K. Beach Road Vizag. Her students take the Certificate and Diploma exams in Bharatanatyam conducted by Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University and Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal and some have brought laurels to the institute by winning the CCRT scholarships. “At Thillana Arts, established in 2008, along with producing young artists in the classical Bharatanatyam style of Dance, we also train them to be teachers who will pass on this traditional art to the next generation,” adds Madhavi Latha.