Kuchipudi dancer Sandhya Raju on National Film Awards and her choreography process for ‘Natyam’

Sandhya Raju, who won the National Award for Best Choreographer for the film ‘Natyam’, discussed how he wanted to impress the audience with his dance compositions.

Sandhya Raju, who won the National Award for Best Choreographer for the film ‘Natyam’, discussed how he wanted to impress the audience with his dance compositions.

Kuchipudi dancer, actor and film producer Sandhya Raju, who won the Best Choreography award at the 68th National Film Awards, was recognized for his contribution to the Telugu film. dance. “I come from a film family. I was entering new territory and spent a lot of time away from my family and my students at Nisrinkala Dance Academy. There were days when I wondered if all this effort was worth it,” she admitted in this interview Friday Review. Directed by Revanth Korukonda and produced by Sandhya. dance TV Rambabu also won the National Award for Best Makeup.

Sandhya feels humbled to receive the award for her choreography and proudly mentions past winners Pandit Birju Maharaj, Prabhu Deva, Bosco-Caesar and Saroj Khan and says it is an honor to be a part of the elite club.

dance It is almost set in a fictional dance village in Andhra Pradesh, Kuchipudi village and associated with dance schools like Kalakshetra. The heroine Sithara, played by Sandhya, dreams of performing a dance ballet based on the life of Kadambari, whose story is shrouded in mystery. But fate has different plans for her. The story allows enough space for song and dance situations and dance Performs classical, folk, contemporary and western compositions.

The film is targeting the audience

Sandhya is the king

Sandhya King | Photo credit: Special Arrangement

Sandhya affirms that she intends to appeal to the film-going audience: “Classical dance lovers have their own markers of what contributes to a pure dance form. The instruments, the music, the raga, the lyrics and the way we compose a mangal, path or wave should be adapted to the classical context. While planning the choreography I remembered the roots of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. Bharatanatyam began as a temple dance form in which dancers performed in front of a deity, while Kuchipudi began with the idea of ​​making classical dance accessible to the masses. Bands of itinerant artists go to perform Bhama Kalapam, pariahKrishna-Rukmini-Satyabhama stories and so on. My guru Vempati Chinna Satyam was known for his Kuchipudi dance dramas. I saw dance “It is an opportunity to create different dance forms to impress the movie audience,” he said.

Members of Ayana Dance Company and western contemporary dancers from Mumbai participated dance the team; They started it to train all of them for the film and also doubled up as background dancers where required.

Sandhya explains that it was a learning experience since one of the songs involved a Radha-Krishna themed romance and visual effects: “We shot in a green room; A lot of homework went into the choreography, which is a fusion of folk and Indian contemporary dance. I used to perform on stage as a Kuchipudi dancer. Working in film with the camera as a third eye and added after visual effects is a new ballgame.

Lepakshi test

Sandhya Raju and Kamal Kamaraj in 'Namah Shivaya' dance shot in Lepakshi

Sandhya Raju and Kamal Kamaraj in ‘Namah Shivaya’ dance shot in Lepakshi

The highlight of the film is the song ‘Namah Shivaya’ shot in the temple premises of Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh. Permits are hard to come by; Sandhya mentions the help of actor-politician Balakrishna’s daughter Brahmani who facilitated the process. The song was initially planned to be shot at night but as permission was denied, we shot it during the day. It was a summer and had its challenges. Sandhya recalls how the film crew poured water on the stone surface and she, co-star Kamal Kamaraju and other dancers danced in front of the camera for 15 to 20 seconds before running back to the shade: “At the end of the seven-day schedule, many of us had blisters on our feet, which was a lot to heal. It took days. Some sort of mad passion drives us all forward. I took that exercise as a test from Lord Shiva himself.”

Dressing the cast

dance Apart from its main cast, a large number of dancers and makeup of the junior artistes who are part of the dance numbers require special attention. Make-up artist Rambabu credits Sandhya for the work of her team of make-up artists keeping in mind the demanding shooting schedules. “I did my own makeup. Rambabu to many actors of Garu The team handled the responsibilities,” she said.

dance It was certified in mid-December 2020, making it eligible for the 68th National Film Awards, which recognizes certified films in 2020. Due to pandemic-induced delays, the film won’t find a theatrical release until October 2021.

To get a realistic view of how the audience perceives it dance, test screenings were conducted. Not limited to feedback from friends, family and film circles, Sandhya and director Revanth mobilized men and women of different ages and walks of life: “We wanted a reality check. Drivers, nurses from the hospital, boys a Basti We have a mixed audience, including those who usually watch mas masala movies…those who don’t understand Telugu. I subtitled the film and wanted to gauge whether the emotions would translate well. The feedback helped us understand how different people see the film.

New territory

Dedicating her award to her mentor Vempati Chinna Satyam, Sandhya said he was considered a guiding rebel in his time: “I can’t compare to him in any way. But with dance, in today’s context I have tried to let the newcomers know about Kuchipudi. There is a lot of respect and appreciation for the film.

Next, Sandhya is working on the sets of a new Telugu film in Telangana. She is not producing it nor is it a dance oriented project. She wants to improve her skills as an actor: “I have many responsibilities dance, planning costumes and coordinating with the art direction department apart from acting, choreography and production. This time I wanted to surrender to the craft of acting. It is going to be a new adventure and the production house will reveal the details of the film soon.

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