All those who grew up in the early 80s and 90s will be aware of the movies based on music and dance made by great director K Vishwanath Garu. His Sankrabharanam in 1979 was well received. This was followed by Saptapadi and Sagara Sangamam to name a few, which gave thunderous applause to its lead actors. One heroine of one such film, Saptapadi, Sabitha Bhamidipati etched her memory in the hearts of the cinegoers those days. In Saptapadi, if you can recall Sabitha as the shy Hema walking behind her grandfather Yajulu (JV Somayajulu), she exudes the same persona even today.
After a successful film in 1981, Sabitha closed the doors to filmdom, just to concentrate on her first love, dance. She still makes heads turn wherever she goes as KV’s heroine. Unlike other dancers, she has not opened any dance school, but with her timely input and advice, she embellishes budding dancers, whenever she is invited as chief guest at any dance recitals in the city. Dance was a passion with young Sabitha, when she along with her family were residing near Ravindra Bharati. She would freak out to attend dance programmes. The yesteryear heroine recalls that after a programme in an auditorium in the Public Gardens, she was scared to go past the museum as during a visit to the museum she had seen skeletons and was afraid they would pounce, forcing her to take a detour to reach home.
Her parents, who had enrolled her under Kuchipudi guru, Dr. Uma Rama Rao realised Sabitha’s seriousness in dance at the end of four years. “I first danced in 1978 at my sister’s wedding and then progammes and Doordarshan happened.” With education in dance, she concentrated on her academics too. It used to be a mad rush from school, to home and to Music and Dance College at Ramkote. “It was during my Inter First Year that I got to work with K Vishwanath garu. It so happened that my guru Uma Rama Rao garu asked me to share some pictures of mine as she was sending some pictures across to the director for a dance film. I had attended the preview of Sankarabharanam and was mesmerised by it. Subhodayam was in the making and I got selected for Saptapadi,” says KV’s heroine. The rest as they say is history.
Concentrate On Dance: On not entering film career, she says that there was no one from her family in films, “Plus I wanted to concentrate on dance”. She shares that during the shooting of Saptapadi, her mom was just standing behind the camera and watching the scenes. “Realising that I am married and I have to abide by marriage and I am taken aback by Gowrinath’s (Ravikanth) reactions before the Tandavam gave me goose bumps, while enacting the scene.”
Sabitha recalls an incident when she ran into late actor, Akkineni Nageswara Rao garu, who had enquired what she would do next, if she wasn’t doing films. “I expressed my desire to learn dance under Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam garu. The late actor put in a word, as I had heard that Vempati garu did not want to teach dance to people from the film world.” She states that she was fascinated by the style of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam garu and stayed in his gurukul for five years to master the art.
“I was so enamoured by dance that apart from attending my dance classes, I would end up in every dance class and thus in the process was dancing at an average of eight hours daily. Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam garu did not deviate from Natya Sastra and portrayed dance simply and in a beautiful way. I was bowled by his ballets and took part in many ballets like Parijatham, Rukmini Kalyanam, …,” Sabitha says with a tinkle in her eye. “When alliances came, for the love of dance, I did not want to settle down, but in my matrimonial home as everyone is a professional, they understood my dilemma and gave me the freedom.”
She relocated to the US and did take part in dance programmes there. But with motherhood and twin daughters- Praneeti & Keerthi and son Pranav, to look after, she bid goodbye to active dance. “One day, I came back home and one of my twins, who was down with fever, was waiting for me. It was then that I decided to be with my children.” She may have quit dance, but one can’t take dance out of her. She does dance for family and close friends.
Conducts lec-dems: Today, she is giving back to dance in a different way. She does lec-dems in Central University and has put together classical dance in films down the ages and has also done a documentary on K Viswanath garu after he won the Dadasaheb Phalke award. “In earlier films, there used to be classical dance numbers and dancers like Vijayanthimala, Ragini, Padmini, Hema Malini added value to the movies. Some of them are dancing today also. Vijayanthimala’s programme even today brings joy,” she mentions.
According to Sabitha, “A dancer or for that matter an actor’s life is limited, say 25 years. There is no beauty if I dance today. Running a dance school needs commitment and moreover there are good dance teachers in the city. It will be unfair on my part if I start dance school and I am away for long time on family commitment.” After relocating to Hyderabad in 2012 and quitting her techie job, in 2015 as Project Manager in OSA Consultants, Sabitha is concentrating on preserving Kuchipudi gems. She says that over the years a lot has changed in the dance form, and the dancers must attempt original choreography too.
Come October 16, 2021, Sabitha Bhamidipati, will grace Jyothi Kalakshetram School of Dance programme, Dasha Hara at Ravindra Bharathi.