Protima's dream - Nrityagram - which we all enthusiastically supported when it started and continued to do so even after her, has now turned into a virtual reality, with Nrityagram girls generally busy with long tours in the USA.
In Bangalore today, thus, Kelubabu brand of Orissi is left to one individual: Sharmila Mukherjee. This quiet Calcutta talent has made her presence felt with her consistency and dedication to the cause of Orissi. She has succeeded in establishing herself as a dancer of note. At first glance, on stage, her overall appeal is that of smaller version of Protima and a bigger version of Madhavi Mudgal. There is something about her face that is Protima-ish, same honesty and open-ness and something about her controlled, internalised dance, that is Madhavish. This is not altogether inescapable as she is a product of their guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. But there the similarities end, for, once when she dances, she is her own and has enough staying power to last an evening of solo dance.
Mangalacharan as an ode of Shiva (as a stuti), her most fetching item after
her self-composed Pallavi was the abhinaya piece on Krishna in which in
the end she uses the same cameo veteran MK Saroja used once for Krishna.
Generally, once mother Yashoda has somehow put baby Krishna to sleep, she
exits and audiences naturally clap. I recall in the mid-eighties, Saroja-ji,
came back from the wings when audiences clapped and did, 'Ssshhhh! Baby
Krishna is sleeping! Don't wake him up with you clapping gesture' and that
was the first time ever it was done or thought of. Since then many Bharatanatyam
dancers (I saw Urmila Satyanarayanan in Malaysia doing that) have woven
that in their narrative and it is an instant hit with the audiences because
it is like a play within a play.
Khokar is a reputed authority on Indian dance, has many books to his credit
and edits and publishes India's only yearbook on dance, attendance.