Kuchipudi Dancer Bhavana Reddy talks about her recent performance, love for Sufi music and how fusion is inevitable.
For a Kuchipudi dancer who is also a Hollywood return singer-songwriter, the idea of fusion is not new. Bhavana Reddy has received commendable response for her unique blend of classical dance and western music.
Her recent performance ‘Unki Raah Mein’, held at the Winter Festival, India International Centre was a fusion of Sufi music and Kuchipudi dance. “Fusion is very natural. If you mix curd and rice, it becomes a new mixture. Similarly, dance performances are interpretations. Every artiste has a different interpretation of a song or choreography,” says Bhavana.
Elaborating about the growing trend of fusion dances, she adds, “In this age, we are surrounded by so many different cultures and languages. If one talked about Kuchipudi hundred years ago, cultural practices were confined to smaller areas and people were only exploring one form of literature. But now we have evolved, we have moved out of our home state, it is only natural that different cultures come together.”
While performing for audiences from other places, fusion is inevitable. “We do fuse elements like music, but the dance is pure in its essence. Instead of listening to Carnatic music, the audience will be listening to Sufi. The language might have changed but the essence remains the same. And to enjoy Kuchipudi, it is important that the viewers understand the music as well,” explains Raja Reddy, Bhavana’s guru and father.
“You can create real bhavam with the right music, and the Sufi music has beautiful words. Urdu is a class apart. Plus it was Bhavana’s idea to perform on a Sufi song,” he adds.
The tradition of fusion has been an old one. “When Nusarat Fateh Ali Khan visited India for the first time in 1979, he sang Meera bhajans and they became popular Sufi songs. As per Sufi tradition, one does not sing about Hindu Gods. He did that to appeal to the people in India, and actually God is one so it doesn’t matter whether he sang about his religion or someone else’s. To sing in a language that majority of people could relate to, and feel one with God is what he wanted and that is why he chose this song,” says Bhavana, who performed to the song Sanson ki mala pe simroon main.
Raja Reddy choreographed the performance. Her other performances were based on a composition by Pt. Ravi Shankar, a Ganesh stuti, a Meera bhajan and another one on the literature of Amir Khusro.
In her recent performances, Bhavana has played various roles like Shandilya (the comical Buddhist monk) in Bhagavadajjukyam; Krishna in Raasa Leela, Cheer Haran and Kalinga Nartana, a character she is well recognised for; Shiva as Ardhanareeshwara; and the charming and possessive wife of Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, amongst many others.