Even as we celebrate Navaratri this week, Natyahasini remembers two great Kuchipudi stalwarts – Padma Bhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and Padma Shri Dr. Sobha Naidu. Vempati Chinna Satyam was born on October 15, 1929, while his student Sobha Naidu breathed her last on October 14, 2020. The credit of making Kuchipudi acceptable as a classical dance must go to Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. Born in Kuchipudi village of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam initially learnt dance under Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry and then moved to Tadepally Perrayya Sastry and learnt Abhinaya from his brother Vempati Pedda Satyam.
In 1962, he established the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Madras and trained many dancers, who are today spread across the globe. It is said that the Academy has a treasure house of over 180 solo items and 15 dance dramas composed and choreographed by the doyen He played the prominent character in Sri Krishna Parijatham, his first production, and followed it by Ksheera Sagara Madanam. His famous ballets include – Padmavati Srinivasa Kalyanam, Vipranarayana Charitam, Menaka Viswamitra, Shakuntalam, Bhama Kalapam, Chandalika, Rukmini Kalyanam, Hara Vilasam and Siva Dhanurbhangam to name a few.
Sobha Naidu, who hailed from Anakapalle in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, began learning dance under P.L. Reddy at Rajamahendravaram. She later moved to Madras to learn under Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam in the Guru-Shishya parampara. Sobha Naidu soon mastered the art form and featured in lead roles in prominent ballets of her guru. Touring across the world with her guru and later as an individual artist, Sobha Naidu excelled in the characters of Satyabhama, Padmavati and Chandalika. She set up the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Hyderabad and trained many youngsters. As a dancer, she has choreographed 80 solo numbers and 15 ballets.