A couple of years ago when Kamal Kamaraju was offered the lead role of a classical dancer in the upcoming Telugu film Natyam, he had not taken it seriously. In fact, he was supposedly not even keen to play a dancer and that too, opposite Sandhya Raju (female lead and film’s producer), who is an accomplished Kuchipudi dancer.
“I was surprised that the role was offered to me given the kind of films I’ve done in the past. I even suggested to the film’s director Revanth Korukonda that he cast a classical dancer instead of me,” reveals Kamal, adding that however, Sandhya insisted he did the film.
“I was shooting in Dehradun and Sandhya garu said she’d send me two classical dancers there to train me during my leisure. That’s when I realised how serious she and Revanth were about casting me.” And as the Telugu audience hasn’t seen him as a classical dancer, he decided he wanted to take on the challenge.
Dancing like a man
In Natyam, Kamal plays the son of a classical dancer’s guru, and is part of a dance school, which is what the canvas of the film is broadly about. For his part, he did finally undergo Kuchipudi training for nine months, a first in his life, especially because even the slightest mistake in expressions is noticeable to a dancer/connoisseur. And because Kamal didn’t want to feel embarrassed or awkward while performing alongside Sandhya, he trained hard. “Initially, they trained me in leg moments. This was followed by hasta bhedas (hand postures), neck movements, postures and balance,” adds the actor. Clearly, training for Kuchipudi was a ‘lifetime experience’ for Kamal. “My training started at 4 am till 7 pm,” he reveals.
According to Kamal, the training made him more sensitive towards the arts and to how Gen Next perceives art forms from a societal viewpoint. “The film also has a conflict point addressing the generation gap with regard to arts,” he points out.
Life lessons on sets
Another interesting aspect of the film for Kamal was that the film was shot in iconic locations — Hampi, Lepakshi, etc. — which he says reflect the cultural and architectural settings of the plot.
“Locations are characters in the film and are intertwined in the plot,” he describes. In fact, the shooting made Kamal nostalgic too. “I had been to Lepakshi as a student too but it’s now that the temple architecture affected me so much; it was a great learning for me,” says the actor, who is also a practicing architect and describes most of the modern architectures as ‘so silly’.
"The kuchipudi training experience left me understanding that I should be more methodical in my architecture profession and that I must understand the roots of the profession to create better designs and thoughts rather than just trying to come up with trending designs," he says, signing off....