Samsmaranam more than a recollection
Text & pics: Ranjana Dave, Mumbai
April 13, 2007 

If Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra were watching this from his abode in the sky, he would have surely approved of the emotionally charged standing ovation that resounded through Manik Sabhagriha, Mumbai on April 7, 2007. To mark his third death anniversary, Smitalay, the dance wing of Sane Guruji Arogya Mandir, presented 'SAMSMARANAM,' which literally depicted the vast milieu of Odissi vocabulary that Guruji moulded and nurtured with astounding results.

Rupali Kadam, Poulomi Fadnavis, Miskil Dharmadhikari, Poornima Dahale and Niranjani Deshpande, all senior students of Smitalay, began the evening with a lively mangalacharan.

Kumkum Lal, a senior dancer and a protégé of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, continued with a solo recital that included some very old compositions of Guruji. She began with Kalyan Pallavi. Although age has definitely taken its toll on her, her brilliance in abhinaya overshadowed everything else. She continued her recital with 'Nahi Ke Kari Dela,' an Oriya abhinaya tinged with history, since Laxmipriya, the famous actress of Annapurna Theatre, who later became Guruji's wife, performed it as a prelude to the plays that were being staged at the theatre in 1946. The magic began right from the moment she appeared on stage to verbally elucidate the song and supplemented it with fluid hand gestures. Her coup-de-grace was 'Kuru Yadu Nandana,' the last ashtapadi of Jayadeva's Gita-Govindam, where Radha and Krishna enjoy their naughty but blissful game of love. 

The Srjan repertory group presented four pieces in the Odissi vocabulary, with innovative themes. A detailed description of each piece was well appreciated, since the usual style of just announcing the name of the piece with the raga and tala leaves many people befuddled. Their first presentation was Allah, choreographed to hypnotic verses by Subramanya Bharati sung by Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sayeeram. The use of percussion instruments added tremendously to this mystically devotional feel that 'Allah' aroused.

Kumkum Lal
Ratikant and Sujata Mohapatra in Jatayu Moksha 
'Tarana Pallavi,' next in their line of innovation without deviation, was performed by two dancers. The choreography was good old Odissi like it always was, but as in the previous item, the music succeeded in creating a mood that is atypical of an Odissi Pallavi. The mardala did not seem to dominate the music, which is a wonderful sound in itself though. 

Ratikant and Sujata Mohapatra, son and daughter-in-law of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, performed their highly-talked about duet 'Jatayu Moksha,' with Hindi verses set to music by Laxmikanta Palit. Jayadev Das brought his skills in lighting to the fore and thus added a lot of pizzazz to the choreography. Sujata Mohapatra's graceful yet restrained technique was an interesting aspect of 'Jatayu Moksha.' 

The fourth and final presentation of Srjan's recital was 'Bhaja Govindam,' a composition that is largely ascribed to Adi Shankaracharya. Eight dancers of the Srjan repertory group, including Rajashri Praharaj, Geetanjali Acharya, Kaustavi Sarkar, Bijayalaxmi Satpathy, Swagatika Sahani, Swagatika Mohapatra, Manosmita Panda and Rachana Rimjhim, danced to the tunes of Laxmikanta Palit. In this remarkably long piece, what stood out the most was the high stamina level of the eight dancers, who lasted till the end without looking like hitherto sculpturesque statues that had melted in all the wrong places.

Srjan Repertory Group in Bhaja Govindam
The talas in Hindustani music have an initial beat called sam. Whenever the tabalchi returns to the sam after a set of rhythmic variations, the playing seems to resound with renewed vigour and also lends its freshness to the accompanying musicians, who then respond with their own burst of energy. Thus, the sam becomes a point where energy, in any form, converges to form a life-force that is tinged with divinity. Somewhere during the moments of magic on April 7, the energy of the sam found its way into the souls of both the artists and the onlookers, thus making Samsmaranam much more than a recollection.

Ranjana Dave learns Odissi and Hindustani classical music.  She contributes regularly to and is a budding journalist.