uncompromising purist, dedicated teacher, creative choreographer
and above all a professional dancer. This versatile personality
is none other than Padma Sri Dr Shobha
Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, who brought great
laurels to the state as well as the nation for being one
of the outstanding exponents of Kuchipudi dance
in the world. She was born to Venkanna Naidu and
Sarojini Devi in Rajahmundry in East Godavari
district. Right from her childhood she has mesmerised
many hearts with her creative dance style.
A disciple of Vempati China Satyam and Dr D
L Reddy, Shobha Naidu is known for her Abhinaya
skills. She presently heads the Kuchipudi Art Academy
in Hyderabad. Her depiction of Satyabhama
and the nine types of expressions (rasas)of
a Nayika (heroine) is remarkable for its subtlety
and interpretation. She has been conferred with many titles
like Nritya Choodamani, Nritya Vihar, Nritya Kala
Siromani and State Government's Hamsa award.Recently
the Government of India presented theprestigious
Padma Sri award, another feather in her
cap. In an exclusive interview, Shobha Naidu shares her
experiences with hyderabad-best.com.
you tell us briefly about your childhood?
I used to respond to the tunes from the radio when I was
a child. Noticing this my parents enrolled me in a local
dance school. I gave a few performances till the age of
eight. As my father was an Engineer and he used to get
frequent transfers, I couldn't continue my dance for a
short period. Later I joined the Kuchipudi Academy
at Chennai and learned Kuchipudi dance with
such devotion, that I am now able to create ripples in
Were your parents supportive of your interest in dance?
Yes. At that time in our family nobody was an artist.
In fact even today there are no artists except me. There
were only musicians from my mother's side. Thus, all my
relatives were against my learning dance. It was my mother
who encouraged me at that time. She took pains to admit
me to the dance academy at Chennai. My father neither
encouraged nor discouraged my learning dance.
there any particular reason for your choosing 'Kuchipudi'
dance form as your career?
Yes. Kuchipudi is a cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh.
Being a Telugu girl, it is but natural that I get
a feeling that I should propagate this art in my own way.
I was very impressed by Kuchipudi presentation and its
Abhinaya. Besides, Kuchipudi was not known beyond
Andhra at that time. It is the dance form that gives you
scope to perform diametrically opposite characters at
one go, as the theme progresses in the form of episodes.
A single dancer can perform the entire Kurukshetra.
No other dance form offers this opportunity. These
are the two main reasons for learning Kuchipudi dance.
Could you tell us about the most memorable show you
Once I had been to the West Indies to perform at
Trinidad. After the show, a couple came to me and
said that they were mesmerised by my performance. The
next day, before leaving I got a call from them saying
that they were blessed with a child. They requested me
to come to their house to see their daughter, who was
named after me. When I heard this I felt so elated and
it was really a great experience. Another memorable thing
is that we had a festival in Tunish, where dancers
from all over the world were participating. I was the
only solo dancer, while the other countries were represented
through groups with 50 to 100 members in each. I felt
very nervous and at the last moment, I reported to the
authorities that I was not going to perform. Then, my
fellow musicians encouraged me and I managed to overcome
my nervousness. I performed for twenty minutes and the
very next day, it was reported in the news papers as 'India
tops'. At that moment, I felt very proud of being
have choreographed and created many ballets till date.
Which ballet do you like the most?
We have performed about eleven ballets till today and
I like almost all the ballets. Above all, my favourite
character is Ravindranath Tagore's 'Chandalika',
who wants to distribute her love to the world. I was
very impressed by that character. Another character that
I love is the one of Satyabhama. All the nine rasas
can be shown and seen in Satyabhama.
Have you ever choreographed for films?
When I was in Madras, I got ample chances and attractive
offers from famous directors. But, I refused all of them
only because I went to Madras with a view to learn Kuchipudi
dedicatedly. First of all, I didn't want to deviate myself.
Films are to earn glamour and money. But, I am not interested
in both. My intention is to propagate the dance form and
whatever I get, I should get it through dance performances.
I always feel very happy to have taken this decision.
Do you feel that classical art forms are struggling
for survival in this modern era?
Yes. They always have ups and downs. At present, as the
western culture is all pervasive, no one gets time to
visit theatres and see traditional performances. People
should realise that by being westernised, they are respecting
the neighbour's mother and neglecting their own mother.
We have such a great heritage and culture that the whole
world respects it. We are not able to make out the value
of our own culture. As long as electronic media influences
the new generation, classical arts will always struggle
Is there any hope of the revival of these arts?
Of course, the day is not far away when people will come
back to our culture. They are bound to get frustrated
with routine serials and programmes and western culture.
you think dancers of today are as committed as they were
in the olden days?
Commitment is always there. As dance is a very expensive
art, the membership has come down. As I said, because
of the influence of Western culture, upcoming dancers
are not getting solo opportunities. My students are able
to participate in my programmes only. If they were given
more encouragement from the Government and sponsors, it
will be possible for them to exhibit their talent and
the membership would increase.
The Government is not encouraging the art of dance....,
States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala are giving
enormous encouragement to the artists, particularly dancers.
Of course, the State Government of Andhra Pradesh is conducting
festivals and paying little interest for dance now. But
what they are doing is not sufficient. Every year one
of our students gets Scholarship from the Central Government.
Like that, the State government also should come forward
with scholarships. They should introduce Kuchipudi
dance form as a subject right from the elementary
level to the University, so that, whoever is interested
can learn dance. Apart from this, they should also create
some pensions for old artists. If the government is able
to arrange all these, more and more people will surely
come forward to learn the art of dance.
Could you please tell about 'Kuchipudi Art Academy'
run by you in Hyderabad?
After giving continuous performances for seven years since
1973, I started this academy in 1980 with the sole
objective of making good teachers of my students. At present
we have 80 students in the academy. We have regular classes
here. Apart from dance, we also teach theory, Yoga and
music. We teach music because, when a dancer comes to
the composing part, the knowledge of music comes to her
rescue. Yoga gives a lot of concentration both physically
Do you encourage your students to innovate and choreograph
their own items?
Yes. All my students are involved in my creations. I discuss
all aspects with my students and also with the musicians
before I create and choreograph a ballet.
Why do you prefer social subjects mostly?
Being a woman and a Kuchipudi dancer, I thought it is
my duty to do something for the society. People also have
developed very good taste towards social plays. I believe
that only such subjects can influence the people. For
example, we did a dance ballet on Shirdi Sai Baba,
which received tremendous response beyond my expectations.
Through this, I've proved that there is nothing that can't
be done in a dance form like Kuchipudi.
What is your advice to aspiring young dancers of today?
Young dancers of today want to finish dance as a course.
It is not just like a computer course to learn in a fixed
time and become a professional. It needs great practice
and dedication. I can only request them not to be hasty
in learning. If you learn properly, the foundation will
be good, which helps you all the time. And I believe that
dance shouldn't be discontinued for any reason. If any
one thinks that they may not continue it in future, then
it is better not to learn. Because dance is the only form,
which gives satisfaction not only to the dancer, but also
to the audience who witness it.
Recently you were conferred with the prestigious Padmasri
Award. How do you feel to have received that great honour?
I am extremely happy to receive the honour. When I heard
that I got the Padmasri, I offered my sincere thanks to
God, whom I worship daily. I am also thankful to my parents,
my husband and all my well-wishers who have been instrumental
in all of my achievements.