A mesmerizing performance  
- Rahul Acharya, Bhubaneswar  
e-mail: rahul_acharya@rediffmail.com 
April 6, 2007 

"Lila Nidhi He Laje Mu Galiti Sari," a song quite oft quoted during Odissi recitals and an extremely common theme for an Abhinaya, is a beautiful narrative in which Radha, bereft of her clothes, is pleading to Krishna to garb her, lest someone might see her naked. To get deeper into the Radha-Krishna philosophy, their love play has been portrayed at an exalted spiritual plane where Radha is considered to be Madanakshya Mahabhavamayee, or the queen amongst the Madhurya Bhaktas 

This Abhinaya has been ably choreographed by many Odissi exponents, but rarely does one find the Bhava involved in it. Blame it on their ignorance or 'taken for granted' attitude, this Abhinaya is not as simple as it appears. I have seen this piece rendered many a time, but rarely has this piece left an indelible impression in my mind. Having watched my own Guru Durga Charan Ranbir perform it or even the doyen, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's rendition, I never imagined, someone else could do justice to the poem. 

But my opinion had to change, after watching Vishnu Tattva Das perform it at the 3rd International Odissi Festival, held in Bhubaneswar. Vishnu Tattva, an Indian residing in America, seemed to be completely unfazed by the glare of the American life style, has retained his Indian-ness and over the years nurtured his love for Krishna. That was the piece de resistance, when this man, six feet three inches in height, humbled down to portray Srimati Radharani, in her graceful gait. The tying of the saree was especially worth watching. It was mesmerizing to watch Vishnu, enact scenes of love play. It was as if the great Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra had descended into his body to refresh and enliven our memories of watching Guruji's renditions. I was completely bowled over and so was my fellow audience.  

A little about this man, who stole many hearts through his impeccable mastery of Abhinaya. Vishnu Tattva Das alias Vilas Lakhpati, was born and brought up at Bombay. Even the chic lifestyle of Bombay could not suppress his love for Krishna, and he left home at the age of twelve to follow his heart to Vrindavana, quite in the lines of Bilwamangala Thakura, a blind saint poet of medieval India. From there, Vishnu was guided to join ISKCON that further took him to the US. That is where he resides now all alone (he is a bachelor). Alone! Sorry, he lives with his Krishna whom he fondly calls 'Gopijanavallabha.' He has had the fortune of being trained by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra himself at the Odissi Research Centre and also by Jhelum Paranjpe, a senior disciple of Guruji, from Mumbai.  

I had the opportunity of closely interacting with Vishnu, whom I started addressing as 'Vishnu Bhai.' I struck an instant rapport with him as I discovered that we shared the same passion for Krishna. I still get nostalgic at the thought of Vrindavana. For my readers who might be wondering how could someone who loves Krishna, perform classical dance... It is common knowledge that Shiva Nataraja is the creator of dance. But beware! If Shiva is Nataraja, the king of dancers, Krishna is no less. He is Natabara, the hero amongst dancers. Coming back to Vishnu, I found him to be a simple, extremely down to earth person, without any airs about him. But what was imposing beyond his physical structure, was his love for Krishna.  

Probably this was the reason for a flawless characterization of Radha in Swadhinapatika Nayika. He definitely caught the eyes of all the connoisseurs present there. Watching Vishnu was a real treat. 

A disciple of guru Durga Charan Ranbir, Rahul Acharya is an Odissi dancer based in Bhubaneswar. Hes a regular contributor to narthaki.com