Naman Take 2! Orissan soil on Bangalore earth
- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore

August 7, 2011

Madhulita Mohapatra made Bangalore her home just under three years ago. In that short span of time, she has established herself as an able and devoted talent of Orissi. There is no Orissi of worth in Bangalore city and few are willing to trudge so far to learn at Nrityagram that Protima set up.

Madhulita has won audiences for the Orissi form, students and new fans. Her Naman Festival 2 was like a sequel to last year's Sholay show, this time only bigger! Having 12 worthies sit on stage and try and look sensible is not easy. This is not a cricket team of Bangalore! Madhulita's intention is to honour and felicitate all but she has to be selective to make the function meaningful.  Speeches are never short and generally praiseful. Each speaker also inflicts his or her own views, not about dance generally! Some local speakers love to speak in their language - to put others down - although the same speakers, who hardly know dance but copy program notes by way of reviews, then write in English!

The full evening started on time and held its own charm with 4 dancers. The first was Debashish  Pattnaik, a sweet, smiling boy whose body was heavy (he’s hardly 24), his laya weak and tala, faulty. His training is good but in a hurry to arrive, these talents resort to shortcuts. Youngsters need to learn patience. 
Debashish  Pattnaik
Rajashri Praharaj
Rajashri Praharaj, also called Rosy, was the highlight of the festival. She does not have a commanding stage presence but her hastas and feet alone are worth watching, so perfectly etched and beautiful these are. She also wore alta, which is an essential part of aharya of the feet, which few wear nowadays saying costumes get spoilt!  I felt like Lakshmana, when asked if the necklace dropped from sky was Sita's when she was abducted by Ravana, he said: “Mohe Noopura ki pehchana....I know only the feet of Ma Sita, as I never looked above or beyond her feet...” Rajashri's feet and hands are beautiful and dance on their own, watch it the next time you see her dance.

The Ramayana piece she undertook was created by Guru Kelubabu and many like Sanjukta Panigarhi, Protima Bedi have performed it with aplomb, so to see a puny Rosy do it again, one felt she maybe disadvantaged by her paltry frame but no, she shone like a chiselled gem. She has immense emotive range and possibilities and her delivery was flawless. The Mareecha-deer sequence was too long. She was very good in the Jatayu sequence and her side gait was elfin-footed, as also when Jatayu dies, the spasmodic ending was excellent. Rajashri is the new Orissi talent to watch for in years to come. She should try and look neutrally cheerful (not smile senselessly, as some dancers do) and not be so serious looking on stage but enjoy her dance and forget the audience.                   

Aruna Mohanty
Debjani Sinha
Aruna Mohanty's dance showed more the craft of dance rather than art. What's that? It is when dance is done to impress with technique and angashudhi but inner joy and feeling is lost. It was also a bit heavy and  laboured. Her dance showed the smell of the Orissan or Odishan (or whatever locals want to call it now!)  soil. Hers was a dance of detail and elaboration and decorative. She with her seniority now is becoming a reference point on how well Guru Gangadhar Pradhan taught. We missed him on this occasion because just last year, he was walking up and down doing Jai Jagannath to all. Three generations of the guru's students were under the same roof: Aruna, Bijoyini and Madhulita.

The last dancer Debjani Sinha was unsure and unsteady and hers was a dance of self indulgence.  After Aruna Mohanty, a seasoned and senior dancer, what was the need to present Debjani Sinha? Reputations are hard to earn, easy to lose.

Ashish Mohan Khokar travels all over India and brings to note dancers of merit, through his writings, columns and yearbook, attendance. His words help dancers and audiences understand and appreciate the art of dance and the actual performance, better. /