I certainly wasn't prepared for what happened next. My wonderful commenters came to the rescue! After a lengthy comment thread full of increasingly-wonderful finds, Gaddeswarup spoke to the male dancer in the film (Bhagavathula Venkata Rama Sarma) and reported back that the actress was indeed Malavika Sarkar who was a Kathak dancer (Lucknow gharana) and learned Kuchipudi for Ananda Bhairavi after being approached for the role by director Jandhyala. I was stunned and amazed that she learned such crisp Kuchipudi just for the film!
At that point I figured that the research trail had come to its end. The dancer had been identified and a bit of her history revealed, but it seemed that we would have to be content with that as no more information seemed available.
Which is my I'm so excited to report that I found a short description and photo of Malavika Sarkar in the "Contemporaries" section of Sunil Kothari's 1989 book Kathak - Indian Classical Dance Art! Here is the photo and Kothari's description:
"One of the bright stars in Kathak, young Malavika Sarkar was trained initially in Kathak by Prem Shankar. Later on she studied intensively under the guidance of Lacchu Maharaj and soon made the grade on account of her natural gifts. She took part in many dance-dramas choreographed by Lacchu Maharaj. She has a natural grace and has imbibed Lacchu Maharaj's style in a commendable way. She runs a dance school Lacchu Maharaj Nritya Niketan in Lucknow. She is active giving solo recitals."
The visual confirmation of her identity is such a treat! Those large, almond-shaped eyes are certainly hers. Now there can be absolutely no question who the dancer in Ananda Bhairavi was and what form of dance she was trained in.
Given that Kothari's book was published in 1989 and Ananda Bhairavi released in 1983, it's clear that she continued performing Kathak after the film and likely much beyond. I wonder, though, how her stint with film "Kuchipudi" was received. Did it affect her Kathak training at all? Were purists upset?
It is disappointing that there seems to be no information online about her dance school, "Lacchu Maharaj Nritya Niketan." Even the school's mention in the listing of "Addresses of Dancers, Teachers, and Academies" in Reginald Massey's book India's Kathak Dance, Past, Present, Future has no address listed! I wonder if the school is still around today and especially if the "bright star" of Kathak still performs. The mystery remains...
I'll close with the "Thillana" song from Ananda Bhairavi featuring Malavika as the Kuchipudi dancer. I wonder what Malavika thought of the Kathak dancer in the number! :)