Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam contribution to Kuchipudi Art in 20 century had been outstanding . Born in 1929, he studied under Tadepalli Perayya Sastri, Pasumarti Kondala Rayudu, his elder cousin Vempati Peda Satyanarayana and Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastri. As a child he played the roles of Loava, Kusha, Lohitasya and Prahlada and then graduated to the female roles of Satyabhama and Gollabhama. Well versed in other male roles he was also known for the role of Lord Shiva in Ksheerasagara Mathanam, a dance-drama choreographed by him.
Following the footsteps of Vempati Peda Satyanarayana, he too migrated to Chenna and in his early years gave direction for dance in the films. However , when he came under te influence of Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastri, he was extremele impressed by the guru`s approach and erudition. When he got established as as a guru training dancers in Kuchipudi, he started Kuchipudi Art Acdemy in Chennai in 1963 and began choreographing and composing dance numbers for solo presentation. He had already made a deep study on Natya Shastraand other texts and was obsessed to place Kuchipudi on par with other dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Manipuri and with time was successful with that. He realised that Kuchipudi had to acquire polish and perfection with aesthetic presentation.
With his creative genius he brought a sea-change in the execution of the nritta movements. He introduced sophistication, clean lines and scintillating quality with perfect resolution of movements of variues dance units and created innumerable jati-s and dance patterns. He classified them, correlated them with Natya Sashtra text, emphasizing on the shastric nature of the Kuchipudi dance form. He brought an order to the solo presantation of Kuchipudi dance form on the lines of Bharatanatyam and other solo forms. He brought in changes in aharya, the costumes as well as music emphasizing its classical character.
The repertoire he has worked out over the years is remarkable and Vempati`s style has acquired a distinct characteristic. His students area legion. With star popular like Chanrakala, who left Kuchipudi to join films and Shobha Naidu, Vempatti succeeded in having large following. From the leading lights of Bharatanatyam like film stars Vujaynthimala. Hema Malini, Meenakshi Sheshadri to the celebrated dancers like Shanta Rao, Yamini Krishnamurti, Sonal Mansign, Lakshmi Vishwanatham, Swapna Sundari, Kamala`s sister Radha and hundreds of dancers have studied under him.
Besides solo number he choreographed more then 30 dance dramas, of which Padmavati Shrinivasa Kalyanam, Kalyana Rukmini, Harivilasa have received unprecedented success. Their production values and dramatic impact, music and uniform good performances by the well trained dancers have received appreciation not only in India but also abroad.
He has devised a course of training which is quite rigorous. Training in Carnatik music and Sanscrit were compulsory along with practical lessons in dance
For the creative output, signal service to the field of Kuchipudi dance, both in solo and dance-dramas aspects, he has received several honours among which the central Sangeet Natak Academi`s Presidential Award, Andhra Pradesh Sangeet Natak Academi`s Bharatakala Prapoorna Award, Madhya Pradesh Government`s Prestigios Kalidas Samman, Honorary Doctorate from Sri Venkateswara University and many others.
He trained his son Vempati Ravi Shankar in Kuchipudi dance. Although not immediately he agreed to teach him, thinking that Ravi should take a different path in life. So Ravi had to prove to master his love for Kuchipudi, first secretly learnt it from senior student of master Bala, but later on master came to know it and excepted him as his student, but was much more strict with him then with any other student. Ravi has shown great promise to carry his farther`s mantle, now is taking Kuchipudi Art even further, more and more refining its techniques and abhinaya, creating new stunning choreographers both in solos and dance dramas . His “Nava Durga” dance drama already has travelled across Kuchipudi world in many countries taking away hearts of audience. Recently Ravi has opened his own Academy.
Vempati`s disciples are too many to the list are not only in India, but also in Europe, Australia, Singapore, Ukraine, Russia etc.
On contemporary scene his the most pervasive influence and effort that has made Kuchipudi a popular dance form, and excepted as “Classical” among other Indian Classical dance styles.
It was a great loss to Kuchipudi art when master on 29 (?) July 2012 has passed away, but his art will live through hundreds of his disciples all over the world.