Enter the heroine
Jayaprada shares her experience of returning to dance with her production `Amrapali' this weekend in Mumbai.
SPEAKING EYES: Jayaprada is all set to enthral.
For a movie star, she seems surprisingly approachable. For someone with the kind of features women pine for, she is refreshingly free of airs. For a performer who has been a cine idol since her teens, she comes across incredibly diffident. With all these qualities, does it not follow that film star and MP Jayaprada, after mesmerising a generation and more with her dance skills on celluloid, should refer to her upcoming appearance as the courtesan Amrapali in the eponymous stage production as her "debut"?
As she prepares for the premiere in Mumbai this Saturday and Sunday at the auditorium of the National Centre for Performing Arts, Jayaprada displays none of the `been there, done that' approach. "In childhood I did small programmes, but due to my occupation with films, and also my unexpected entry into politics, I could not keep up with my dance."
The result? "I am restarting now after 16 years."
Was it tough? Jayaprada laughs, "Don't ask!"
The journey that began in Rajahmundary under Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi gurus Sathyanarayana Master and Dikshithulu respectively, is now being resumed under the baton of Bhushan Lakandri, well-known choreographer, whose title to fame includes the ballets he choreographed for Hema Malini, another cine star who turned to her first love, Bharatanatyam, late in her film career.
Back to school
Jayaprada agrees it is a bit like going back to school. "Yes, and I am an obedient student." In any case, the dance style predominating in this ballet is not one of her fortes. "The background (of the story) is Bihar, so we have kept Kathak as the base," she reveals.
Lakandri, who has choreographed this ballet, first earned acclaim in the 1980s, when as one of the chief dancers and choreographers at New Delhi's Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, he took leading roles in ballets like the Ramayana and the Mayurbhanj Chhau production, `Karna', before shifting base to Mumbai. Jayaprada is full of confidence in his abilities. "He is a very experienced person. I am also new to this, so I needed such a person."
The character of the courtesan Amrapali is not being shown in the typical way, costume-wise or treatment-wise, says Jayaprada, adding she wants to introduce this strong, legendary character to today's youth. The music by veteran Ravindra Jain, says Jayaprada, is "wonderful." Not only is he a maestro, he has also scored several dance productions for Hema Malini. "Hema ji" seems to be something of a benchmark for her.
"Well," admits Jayaprada, "when I spoke to her before starting, she said, `I am with you. My doors are open to you.' This type of encouragement from a senior is great. In every way I am junior to her."
Yes, this heroine of hundreds of Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali and Tamil films - including the celebrated "Sur Sangam" that established her as a ravishing dancer - refers to herself as "so junior," even when it comes to naming her favourite dance partner! After a mild push though, she names Kamal Hasan, her hero in super hits like "Salangai Oli", "Rasaleela" and others.
Right now, though, it is for her and her trusted team to roll out the super hit formula.
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