Haleem Khan's affair with Kuchipudi dance
A 30-something from Ongole in the coastal district of Prakasam in Andhra Pradesh, Khan, who believes that art and religion are two separate entities, has been into Kuchipudi for the past 15 years, and it breathes life into him.
Hyderabad: At a time when social fabric is under threat of being torn not just in India but across the globe, a youngster in Hyderabad is out to prove that not everything is about religion. Haleem Khan, a practicing Muslim, believes that art in any form, be it music, painting or classical dance, defies all definitions of language, religion, caste or community. He is a passionate exponent of the Indian classical dance form of Kuchipudi!
A 30-something from Ongole in the coastal district of Prakasam in Andhra Pradesh, Khan, who believes that art and religion are two separate entities, has been into Kuchipudi for the past 15 years, and it breathes life into him. And his dream project of producing an instructional DVD on Kuchipudi came true when Telangana Minister T Harish Rao released the video at a function recently.
Speaking to Khaleej Times after the release of the DVD, Khan, who founded the Deccan Kuchipudi Art Academy, an NGO dedicated towards practicing, promoting and propagating Kuchipudi, said: "The motto behind making this instructional video is to reduce time constraint and provide easy access to the dance form. This video comes in handy to the learner who can access lessons anywhere and at any time, and it is more than a reference manual with all the minute details mentioned about Kuchipudi."
Asked about his passion for Kuchipudi and the problems he faced, Khan, who has given performances and conducted workshops in the US, said: "For me it is a passion, the very essence of my life, and mind you, it did not come without cost. There were several hurdles - from family, community and friends, but I realised that to achieve something, there had to be sacrifices."
So, how did the journey into the untested terrain, given his religious background, begin? "I was a listless kid, like any other, during my school days till a friend told me when I was in my first year of Intermediate that I could learn classical dance from a lady who was teaching others. She wouldn't take me in because I was a full blown adult. But I was relentless in my pursuit and she finally gave in but it did not last long. Later I was introduced to K V Subrahmanyam Garu in Guntur who became my guru," the HR consultant-turned-full time dancer recalled.
Khan is candid in admitting that he faced more downs than ups in the form of resistance, including from his parents and community. "I did not tell my parents that I was learning Kuchipudi since it would not have gone down well with them. In fact, they were totally unaware of my passion for seven years, when I even changed my name to 'Hari' while giving performances," he said, adding that he has even given dance performances in temples during festivals.
"I finally realised that I couldn't play hide-and-seek with my parents for long, and sent some media persons to my house. My parents, however, denied that I was into Kuchipudi. I then decided to call them up and reveal the truth and tell them about my achievements. They were surprised but they continued to persuade me to give up dancing," Khan, who has performed in Malaysia, Singapore and Pakistan, said.
"My passion for the classical dance art form would not allow me to give it up," says Khan, who describes himself as a faithful and a person who offers prayer five times. He has not done anything wrong or harmed or hurt anyone with his love for Kuchipudi. "I believe in Islam," says Khan, who has over 800 solo and group performances under his belt.