Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival 2008  
- Kirti Dahale, Mumbai 
Pics: Arbind Mahapatra 

October 7, 2008 
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, one of the architects of Odissi dance, who passed away on 7 April 2004, has left a vast legacy of his gharana - teaching, performing and a quest for new creation. His legacy is ably being carried forward by his son and disciple guru Ratikant Mohapatra, his family and esteemed members of Srjan. 

For the last fourteen years, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival has become a landmark event in the cultural calendar of Orissa.  The city of Bhubaneswar has been witnessing a galaxy of artistes of Indian classical dance and music through this festival. Surely guru Kelucharan Mohapatra must be a very happy man at god's place, on seeing the art form of Odissi in safe hands and flourishing further with constant and continued good efforts. 

Like every year, on September 5th 6th and 7th, this year also the people of Bhubaneswar enjoyed the treat of seeing and hearing good dance and music. 

Namrata Gupta
Sattriya dance
The festival began with an Odissi performance by Namrata Gupta from Mumbai, disciple of Daksha Mashruwala. Of her three presentations, the Oriya abhinaya "Prana sangini re" was a hit. The nuances of Radha and Krishna's abhinaya were neatly expressed and Daksha's sensible training was very clearly seen in Namrata’s performance. Then followed a recital of bhakti bhava laden Sattriya dance from Guwahati, Assam, by Anita Sharma and her group. Watching the lucid and graceful movements, very much typical to this dance form that is devotional in character, eyes and mind settle down in tranquillity. The first day concluded with a flute recital by Rakesh Chaurasia, the nephew of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. Close your eyes and you will experience the replica of Pt. Chaurasia. His performance showed his worthy training from his uncle. His rendition of raga Bachaspati, especially in lower notes was stupendous. Accompanying him on tabla, Tanmoy Bose was at his best. 
Rakesh Chaurasia
Jyotsna Jagannathan
The second evening on 6th September started with a stunning performance of Bharatanatyam by Dr. Jyotsna Jagannathan. A well trained dancer from Chennai, this doctor has carved a niche for herself in Bharatanatyam. Her choice of items for the non-Tamilian audience was perfect. Ganesha stuti as an opening item was followed by two abhinaya items. The Marathi song "Rusali Radha Rusala Krishna" and Hindi song of poet Surdas, "Maiya more mein nahin makhan khaiya" brought clear depiction of sanchari bhavas created by guru Kalanidhi Narayan. Jyotsna not only learns abhinaya from her but also works in details of her own for the exact modulation of body language and facial expressions. Certainly Jyotsna Jagannathan is a dancer to watch any time.  
Aloka Kanungo group
Saxophone Sisters
The evening's second presentation was 'Dashamahavidya,' a group Odissi dance presentation by Aloka Kanungo and her disciples from Kolkata. Ten dancers on stage with blood red coloured costumes, was very hard for viewers' eyes to register. Her entire production had been planned with few props to form the designs of the Jantras of Dashamahavidya and video projection in the cyclorama. As usual Aloka Kanungo's choreography and the performance of her group were good but somehow this reviewer felt that the content of video projection behind could not match the dance except in a few places.  

The second evening came to an end with an outstanding Carnatic Saxophone recital by Saxophone Sisters - M S Lavanya and M S Subbulaxmi with other very talented musicians. The violin accompaniment by S Kartik with saxophone was even better. The combination of these two instruments and its vibrant playing by the artistes created majestic melody, adding richness to each other's playing. The Saxophone Sisters played Vatapi Ganapatim in raga Hamsadhwani and Kamalabdakula, a Thyagaraja composition in raga Brundavanasaranga. 

The final day of the festival-the much awaited evening on 7th September, the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award giving ceremony brought Kelu babu's memory alive and created an illusion of his presence on stage. Due to the State's political disturbances, the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik could not attend the function. Hence Debiprasad Mishra, the Minister for Tourism gave away the awards to Kumudini Devi (theatre), Nikhil Baran Sengupta (cinema), Banamali Moharana (music) and Ramani Ranjan Jena (dance) for their lifetime achievements in their respective fields.  

The GKCM Award was instituted in 1995 by Guruji's son and disciple Ratikant Mohapatra. Including this year, 31 artistes have been conferred with this prestigious award so far. Also present on the dais were Bijay Chandra Jena (the Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Culture, Orissa), who released the festival souvenir, Menaka Thakkar from Canada, a senior disciple of Guruji, who brought Indian classical dance to North America, Guruma Laxmipriya Mohapatra and Ratikant Mohapatra.  

After this grand award ceremony, Ratikant Mohapatra's new and innovative choreography 'Mrutyu' was presented.  It was wonderful to see the overflowing crowd that filled the auditorium to capacity, standing in the aisle at two floors waiting eagerly to see the new production.  An abstruse theme, Mrutyu, logically conceptualised by Ratikant, nicely scripted, with sensible light design by Jaydev Das and Sankrit lyrics by Dr. Manmohan Acharya, left no barriers in the audience's mind to understand this difficult theme. Adding to this, Laxmikant Palit's music with the use of uncommon instruments like saxophone and mandolin to Odissi was a treat to the ears.  

The characters of this dance drama, Mrutyu played by Rajashri Praharaj, Dharma by Rachna Rimjhim, Gyana by Bijaylaxmi Satapathy, Prema by Swagatika Sahani, Shanti by Manosmita Panda and the other dancers showed their good training. Their neat and well synchronised movements deserve special mention. Ratikant must be commended for his continued efforts to carry forward his father's legacy. 

Sagarika Pradhan, a talented and upcoming singer from Bhubaneswar, concluded the three day long festival with a beautiful vocal recital. Odissi music has its own individuality and Sagaraika's recital involved unconventional fusion of Odissi and Sufi. This typical fusion singing elevates people's minds and gives a new direction to their understanding of good music. 

Sagarika Pradhan
Nikhil Baran Sengupta 
The Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award festival was inaugurated on the first day by the State's Culture Minister, Surayanaraya Patra along with other esteemed guests, guru Jatin Goswami and S S Nandurdikar, Managing Director, Paradip Phosphate Limited. The second day was inaugurated by Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, Governor of Orissa along with Secretary Tourism Mr. Parag Gupta. 

Based in Mumbai, Kirti Dahale is a software & hardware engineer. She is also a practitioner of Kathak dance.