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Kuchipudi Rangapravesam: Rashi Gupta

Shanthi Muthu

A Feast For The Eyes! A Dance For A Cause!

I was blessed to be present at the Kuchipudi Rangapravesam of Kum. Rashi Gupta on August 21, 2010 at the Burriville High school theater in Rhode Island.

Rashi entered the stage with grace to the commanding voice of her Guru Smt. Prafulla Velury. She began with Prayers to Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. She continued with Brahmanjali paying obeisance to Lord Nataraja, Guru, musicians and the audience. Her next item was “Rukmini Pravesa Daruvu”, in which she portrayed young Rukmini in first person narrative, with an addition of a veil around her hair. Rashi's extraordinary grace, sparkling eyes, enchanting smile and expressive face depicted the shyness, tenderness and beauty of the divine Rukmini. In the next item “Alarulu Kuriyega”, she changed her costume, and added a side bun to transform herself to the graceful Alivelumanga, consort of Lord Venkateswara. The melodious music of Veena by Smt. Durga Krishnan and the scintillating sound of the violin by Mr. Surya Sundararajan definitely created the divine mood of the above two items. Rashi looked charming and divine in her dance attire embellished by the impeccable make-up artist Mrs. Shailaja Choudhary.

In the “Javali item – Parulanna maata”, Rashi's face depicted the Navarasa, the 9 moods changing from one to the other in lightning speed.  In the next item “Tillana”, Rashi danced on the brass plate, maintaining the balance, rhythm, and clarity of hasta mudras (hand gestures) to the crisp beats of the nattuvangam bells of her guru. Mridangam by Mr Gaurishankar deserves a special mention as it was a perfect match for her footwork, and there seemed to be a seamless union of the two.

After a brief interval, Rashi fresh as a flower, began the item “Ananda Tandavam” describing the joyous dance of Shiva. Her bright blue costume was a sight to behold, and the prop of “chandrakala”, the crescent moon was a welcome addition. In her “Dasavatara Sabdam”, of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu, the sanchari in the Narasimha avatara was a lot of fun to watch.

In the last item “Mahakali”, Rashi aptly in a red costume, with her hair left loose, and her changed Tilakam mark on the forehead (thanks to the makeup artist)  was the divine Goddess Kali personified. She played the demon Mahishasura very well, as she laughed after beheading people, indicating that the asura enjoyed the cruel act. She made perfect rounds jumping up in air, and every time she landed with a thud sound, the mridangam beat also resounded in unison (Great job Gaurishankar!).

Guru Prafulla had done a remarkable job choreographing all the items with creativity. She undoubtedly has the support of her husband Srinivas Velury who has contributed his part in this Rangapravesam by designing an attractive brochure. Few teachers have the ability to take care of both the vocal and Nattuvangam for a dance recital, and Guru Prafulla is one of those rare few. When she says the Jatis, the force of her voice would make even tired feet regain their strength. Whenever she needed a break, she could rely on the vocal support of her friend Mrs Sushma Yechuri, who had traveled from DC, just to be part of this event.

Adhering to the traditions of Kuchipudi, Rashi sang stanzas many times during her recital, thereby exhibiting her vocal skills too.

Now, how was this “A Dance for a Cause”?

I am one of the volunteers in USA for Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA – www.bba.org.in) which works for rescuing and rehabilitating child slaves in India, with its headquarters in Delhi. Rashi was inspired by a presentation on BBA and child slavery, that she decided to accept only donations for BBA, in place of gifts for her Rangapravesam. What a high level of thinking for a high school Junior! She has inspired other people to think of the cause and share their wealth, which totaled to around $3000 on that day. Very commendable indeed to raise funds using performing skills for a 16 year old! Her parents Manju and Rajeev Gupta have done their job well not only in developing her performing skills by their tireless work for 10 years, but have helped her mature into a beautiful self.

In all, the Rangapravesam of Rashi Gupta was a memorable  recital,  with support from sound system, lighting, the accompanying musicians and her friends and I left the hall feeling peaceful and content.

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