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Dream girl of Kuchipudi

Published Oct 16, 2020, 5:47 pm IST
Updated Oct 16, 2020, 5:47 pm IST
Sobha Naidu's erstwhile students, dance critics and Kuchipudi aficionados pay a tribute
Sobha Naidu
 Sobha Naidu

Vidushi Sobha Naidu, a name synonymous with Kuchipudi dance, passed away in the early hours of Wednesday following a brain haemorrhage.

Sobha not only trained thousands of students but gave breath-taking performances, popularising this classical dance form in India and the world. She started her dance journey under the tutelage of P. L. Reddy at Rajahmundry, and went on to train under Kuchipudi legend Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam at Chennai. Bhamakalapam, Sri Krishna Parijatam, Girija Kalyanam, Vipranarayana, Vijayosthute Naari, Navarasa Natbamini, Swami Vivekananda and Menaka Vishwamitra are some of the ballets she choreographed. She was well-known for her portrayal of characters like Chandalika, Devadevaki, Padmavathi, Mohini, and Parvathi. Her delineation of Satyabhama was particularly striking. Her erstwhile students, dance critics and Kuchipudi aficionados have mourned her passing.


Performer par excellence

It was during a visit to Chennai that I first saw Sobha as a young dancer, training with Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. In 1971, I invited her to Bombay for the ‘Kal Ke Kalakar’ festival. Her Abhinaya and Nrutta were stunning.  I have done many Lecture demonstrations on Kuchipudi along with  her in many cities. She has been prominently featured in my milestone publication on Kuchipudi.

— Padma Shree , Dr Sunil Kothari, Dance critic

A dedicated, disciplined artiste

I have been learning dance from Sobha Naidu for 16 years. For the last eight years, I have been guiding young students at her Kuchipudi Art Academy. She was a stickler for punctuality and had a discipline and dedication. Before every programme, she would invariably hold at least three rehearsals. Based on the capabilities of each student, she would decide their character in a dance ballet. She would spend lot of time making corrections in our dance presentations. She would share her childhood memories and favourite movies with me. She regretted that the GenNext was moving towards Bollywood and Western dance. She always said Kuchipudi dance can relieve stress and give inner peace, if practiced with dedication.”                             


— Hymavathi Voleti, Student

A void that can’t be filled

I first saw Sobha Naidu as Padmavathi in the ballet Srinivasa Kalyanam at Ravindra Bharathi. I portrayed Ananda, Narada and Kamsa in her ballets. Her comic and witty characterisation of Devadevaki in the ballet Vipranarayana was fantastic. She was one of the rare artistes who could give expression to every word in a song. She would tell me of her struggles to stage Kuchipudi performances, which she bore because of passion and commitment.                            


— Bhagavatula Sethuram, Professor of Dance, Telugu University (Retd.)

Fortunate to perform on stage with her

Around 1980, Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam started the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Hyderabad and Sobha Naidu was the first Principal of the academy. I joined the Academy and had the good fortune of getting the guidance of both Gurus. Sometimes we even got the chance to perform on stage along with her. Till 1991, I was a regular at the Academy. Sobha even specially choreographed Swagatham Krishna for me, and I performed it at a Sangeet Natak Akademi festival in Lalitha Kala Toranam.


— Anuradha Jonnalagadda,  Professor of Dance, University of Hyderabad