Guru Smt.Vijaya Prasad has been teaching Kuchipudi for the past 40 years. She was born in the coastal city of Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh which is about 28 km from Kuchipudi village - the place where Kuchipudi dance form originated. She grew up in a very creative and artistic household. Guru Vijaya Prasad's parents, especially her mother, were very interested in classical dance and music and were big patrons of Kuchipudi. They would invite the masters from Kuchipudi village to perform at their temple during major festivals.
Guru Vijaya Prasad was initiated in this divine dance form at a tender age of five by none other than the great Kuchipudi Natya Acharya, Shri Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry. She was further trained in this art form by Guru Shri Yelleswrapu, Guru Shri Nageswra Sarma and Guru Shri Acharya Gautam. She started giving stage performances from the age of eight. She has given more than 500 performances throughout India. Guru Vijaya Prasad used to perform along with her cousin Mrs. Maruti Kesav and together they were well known in Andhra Pradesh as the ANDHRA SISTERS.
Guru Vijaya Prasad was trained in the classical style of Kuchipudi. But she enhanced all her performances with her own unique elegant and mellifluous style. She beautifully performed all the traditional Kuchipudi dance items like Tarangam, Tillana, etc. She was very famous for her portrayal of Lord Krishna in "Gopi-Krishna" and as Shiva in "Shiva Parvati" dance ballets, for she established these roles powerfully always to a standing ovation .
She received numerous awards, honors and citations; notable among them are :
Watch a short film about Guru Smt Vijaya Prasad
Popularising Kuchipudi in Maharashtra
Guru Vijaya Prasad settled down in Mumbai in the 70s. Kuchipudi was virtually unknown in Maharashtra (and Mumbai) at that time; Bharat Natyam and Kathak were the more well known and popular classical dance forms. As an ardent exponent of Kuchipudi dance, this pained Guru Vijaya Prasad. So in 1981 she established the Kuchipudi Dance Academy, with an aim to popularise Kuchipudi in Maharashtra. Kuchipudi Dance Academy thus became the first and the only registered Dance Academy in Maharashtra to teach Kuchipudi dance form. Since then she has been imparting knowledge to her students following the Guru Shishya Parmpara style of teaching.
Initially many parents came to Guru Vijaya Prasad asking her to teach their children Bharat Natyam as they were not familiar with Kuchipudi. To counter this, she started educating parents and locals about Kuchipudi by conducting workshops that showcased the differences between the two dance forms. Her disciples also presented the history of Kuchipudi and demonstrated the graceful and smooth movements of Kuchipudi through performance to enlighten people.
Kuchipudi Dance Academy also started celebrating Annual Gathering on December 25th, to showcase the talents of her disciples and also promote Kuchipudi locally. Her disciples also performed at local temples and religious functions. Soon Guru Vijaya Prasad's disciples started winning the local and All India Dance Competitions, bringing fame to the Academy. And finally Guru Vijaya Prasad's efforts were fructified when for the first time students came to her to specifically learn Kuchipudi - at that moment Guru Vijaya Prasad knew she climbed the first step towards achieving her goal of popularising Kuchipudi.
But this was just the beginning as the road to establish Kuchipudi in Maharashtra was not smooth. Guru Vijaya Prasad had to face many hurdles in the form of lack of a funds to organize events with live orchestra, proper place for dance rehearsals, etc.
The following sections describe how Guru Vijaya Prasad was instrumental in popularising Kuchipudi in Maharashtra by generating interest and awareness among Maharashtrians.
Correcting the Maharashtra Board of Education
In the 5th Standard English text book, published by Maharashtra Board of Education, it was wrongly mentioned that Kuchipudi dance form originated from Tanjavore, Tamil Nadu! Guru Vijaya Prasad, who devoted her entire life in living and teaching this art form, could not bear it. She wanted to give Kuchipudi the right status it deserved. She wrote numerous letters to the Maharashtra Department of Education, about Kuchipudi, its history and pointed out their mistake. She succeeded in her endeavor, as the Education Ministry sent her a reply acknowledging their mistake and correcting it in the next publication.
Campaigning to include Kuchipudi in Swara Sadhana All India Dance Competitions
Every year Swar Sadhana Samiti organizes The All India Dance Competitions in Mumbai. When Guru Vijaya Prasad wanted to send her disciples to compete in this event, she found that they did not have category for Kuchipudi; i.e Swar Sadhana Samiti held competitions in all dance forms except Kuchipudi!
This changed after Vijaya Prasad corresponded and met with the Samiti President. Because of Guru Vijaya Prasad's efforts, Swar Sadhana Samiti included Kuchipudi dance competitions in their annual event.
Guru Vijaya Prasad's students performances at these competitions received accolades from audiences and the judges alike, for they had never seen a Kuchipudi performance before. They would reach out to the Guru after the performance to know more about the art form. And slowly in time all major organizations in Mumbai started including Kuchipudi in their dance competitions.
Guru Vijaya Prasad publishes books on Kuchipudi in Marathi
Guru Vijaya Prasad also published small booklets in Marathi, "Kuchipudi Natya Visheshta" and "Kuhipudi Natya Prachinata", to spread awareness about Kuchipudi among the local people. She wrote a book titled "Kuchipudi Natya Sanghraha" both in English and Marathi which explains the fundamentals of Kuchipudi dance.
First ever Kuchipudi dance ballet based on Marathi Abhangas
Majority of Kuchipudi Dance Academy students are Maharashtrians and yet they were performing flawlessly to the traditional Telugu songs. Guru Vijaya Prasad thought that if her disciples could express subtle bhavas so beautifully without understanding the language, how much they (and their parents) would enjoy if the songs were in their native Marathi.
Guru Vijaya Prasad started learning to speak and read Marathi. She was inspired by the Bhakti movement and started reading original Marathi texts on great saints such as Sant Tukaram, Sant Dyaneshwar, etc. She choreographed a new Kuchipudi dance ballet titled "Abhanga Nrutya Raveli" - which incorporated the popular Marathi devotional songs (abhangas). This never before attempted adaptation of abhangas into a classical dance form was very successful and widely appreciated and covered by Marathi news papers like Loksatta.
First Kuchipudi television series in Marathi
In early 1990's Mumbai Doordarshan approached Guru Vijaya Prasad to produce a six part television series on Kuchipudi in Marathi language. The series covered Kuchipudi fundamentals with demonstrations and performances by her disciples. The series was called "Nrutyangan". You can watch the series here.