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A Humble Homage to Guru Kelucharan Babu
by Indu Raman, Mumbai

April 12, 2004

I met Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra way back in 1993 to interview him. He shared these thoughts and feelings in an intimate conversation lasting over an hour. This was published in 'The Independent', a Times of India publication on September 16, 1993. I share this with all of you as humble homage to one of the pioneers of classical dance in India.

I teach them with all sincerity
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, says he enjoys helping children appreciate dance.

Odissi maestro Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra is a frequent performer for Spic-Macay. Dancing for an uninitiated audience, one would imagine, would give him less satisfaction than performing for an audience of rasikas. But one realizes in conversation with him that this is not true. For him art is more than a profession, it is a mission. "I know the children who are watching me dance or demonstrate, may never have seen anything like this before but I perform with all sincerity hoping that in some young heart a spark may be lit. Perhaps a young boy or girl will begin to learn to dance or play the flute," Kelu Babu says.

"When I demonstrate to them, it all seems to suddenly make sense to them. I explain to them for instance that when I speak a word and then write it down, there is link between the actions. It is communication of a kind. I speak a sentence, you hear and understand it in its context. That is another kind of communication. When I sing and use gestures (hastas) and facial expressions that act constitutes yet another kind of communication. I don't normally demonstrate every word or explain every line to this type of audience. Only the key words and outline a suggestion. That grips their attention. They are quite wonderstruck by the union of music, lyrics and dance," he says.

Mohapatra comes from a traditional family and worked hard under a guru for years to learn the art. But today he confesses he has lost all hope of the gurushishya parampara ever being revived. He feels a student should be devoted to his guru spending every moment under his watchful eye. "I was uneducated. If I had even a little academic education perhaps I may not be what I am now. Then I was totally dependent on my guru, on my art. My learning was gleaned from observation. There were no distractions."

He wonders, smiling, "Will the educated students of this generation accept such conditions? Even the effort to re-establish a gurukul near Bangalore has not been a success. I became restless as I felt my students in other parts of the country need me".

Indu Raman is the Artistic Director, Rangshree Dance Academy, Rangshree Theatre Arts; Head, Dept of Bharata Natyam, S.N.D.T. Women's University; Member 2002 Conseil International de La Danse -UNESCO

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