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Sufi Kathak

A trend among the tombs

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Dancer Pernia Qureshi is all set to present a marriage of Sufi and Kuchipudi

Quite a few years ago, Manjari Chaturvedi started blending Sufi lyrics and music with the classical dance of Kathak and set in motion a rage for genredefying and visually appealing Sufi Kathak. What Kuchipudi dancer Pernia Qureshi is beginning to do now, under the guidance of her guru Raja Reddy, may well set the trend for Sufi Kuchipudi. 

Qureshi, who is better known as the designer who styled Sonam Kapoor in Aisha - it bombed on the box-office but underlined the actor's style diva status - will present a Kuchipudi recital set to a Sufi song by Abida Parveen - Jab Se Tumne - at the Jahan-e-Khusrau festival. 

"It would be stupendous if it can give rise to the new genre of Sufi Kuchipudi, " says Qureshi, who also trained in Kathak before shifting to Kuchipudi. The piece was created by Raja Reddy three years ago and Qureshi first performed it at the Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai last year. "Guruji creates choreographies for specific students and this one was especially created for me. I love experimentation in the classical dance format and that is why I think that he created this with me in mind. " Qureshi trained for eight years under the doyens of Kuchipudi - Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy - and is one of their senior-most students. The dance piece is 20 minutes long, much shorter than the one-hour-plus piece on the same song that Qureshi had performed for the Kala Ghoda festival. 

Qureshi, who straddles two different worlds with Kuchipudi and Bollywood where she styles divas, says that if she were ever to get an opportunity to combine her two interests, she would take it up eagerly, though she would like to dance in the piece herself. "It may sound selfish but honestly, the present-day actresses in Bollywood don't have it in them to pull off a classical number with ease, " she says. "A pure Bollywood dance where an actress can just get up and start dancing is very different from a classical number. " 

How difficult is it for her to balance her two disparate interests given the fact that her identity as a Bollywood stylist must threaten the existence of the classical dancer in her every now and then? "My identity as a classical dancer is older than that of a designer/ stylist - before Kuchipudi, I learnt Kathak under Pt Tirath Ram Azaad, but sadly, couldn't pursue it after he passed away. I have a hectic daily schedule but I spend the mornings rehearsing and the afternoons in office working on other things, " says Qureshi, who studied at the George Washington University, Washington DC, majoring in Criminal Justice (with Dance and English Literature as minors). 

This will be Qureshi's first performance for Jahan-e-Khusrau;the other names being presented include folk singer Malini Awasthi from Lucknow who will sing Nazeer Akbarabadi's lyrics, to which Astha Dixit will present a Kathak recital, singers Deveshi Sehgal and Sonam Kalra, Nazeer Ahmed Warsi and a group from Hyderabad, Mercan Dede from Istanbul and Abida Parveen from Lahore. A satellite edition of the festival will travel to Lucknow thereafter. 

The artiste will perform at Arab Ki Serai, Humayun's Tomb on March 3 

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