Song of Surrender

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma

By Veejay Sai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

9.9.1935-16.11.2012
Vedantam  Satyanarayana  Sarma  was  born  on  9  September  1935, to  Subbamma  and  Vedantam  Venkataratnam,  who  belonged  to a  traditional  Kuchipudi  family.  By  that  time,  Kuchipudi  dance had  barely  crossed  the  borders  of  the  Telugu  speaking  regions. The  life  story  of  Satyanarayana  Sarma  tracks  the  modern  history  of Kuchipudi.

He was only a year old when his father passed away and he came under the  care  of  his  older  brother Vedantam  Prahlada  Sarma  who  taught  him dance  as  per  the  family  tradition.  He also  took  training  from  Vedantam Lakshminarayana  Sastri  and  Chinta  Krishnamurthy.  Like  all  the  boys  of his  caste in  his  village, little Satyam was  taught Sanskrit  and  yoga. The dance­drama  format  of Kuchipudi,  also  called  Kuchipudi  Yakshaganam or  Bhagavata  Melam,  had  young  boys  play  the  female  roles  in mythological  stories.  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  when  Satyam  was about to make his debut on stage, the Melam stopped him, as he was not trained in music. An actor had to sing and dance with equal proficiency. Satyam therefore learnt music from guru Yeleswarapu Seetaramanjaneyulu in  his  village,  and  later  trained  under  the  famous  singer  and  violinist Sishta  Brahmaiah  Sastry  in Machilipatnam.  Finally,   when  he  was fourteen  years  old,  he  made  his debut  at  a  temple  festival  and  stole everyone’s  heart  with  his  performance. He  played  the  roles  of Lohitasya in  Harischandra and  Lava  in Ramanatakam in  Pasumarthy  Kondala­rayudu’s  troupe,  where his  brother played the lead female roles.

In  an  interview  given  years  later,  he revealed  how,  when  he  was  utterly depressed as a teenager, he had visions of  Siddhendra  Yogi  (founder  of Kuchipudi  dance)  blessing  him  that he  would  achieve  success  from  his nineteenth  year.  As  prophesied,  he received  an  offer  to  play  the  role  of Parvati  in Usha  Parinayam at  the  age of  19  in  Sapru  House  in  Delhi.  It  was his  good  fortune,  that  a  troupe  which had  performed  earlier  had  left  behind its  stage  set  of  mount Kailash  for  him to  use.  This  performance  in  1958  was the  turning  point  in  his  life.  His  dance that day won him recognition.

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