Dance Discourse on Odissi
- Probal Gupta
Photos courtesy: Madhulita Mohapatra

October 26, 2012

Ashish Mohan Khokar’s recent Dance Discourse on Odissi gave vivid highlights of the form, its history, gradual metamorphosis from the Mahari tradition (derived from the word ‘Mahan nari’ or a great woman, who were the devadasis of the Jagannath temple in Puri) and Gotipua to the present proscenium Odissi differentiated into various genres under the tutelage of various stalwarts - Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Debaprasad Das, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra along with the living legend Guru Mayadhar Raut. A few Odissi dancers from Bangalore jointly with Madhulita Mohapatra presented a complete traditional repertoire of the form starting with the invocatory Mangalacharan, followed by Batu, Pallavi, Abhinaya and concluding with Moksha at Alliance Française, Bangalore.

The evening commenced with the junior students of Madhulita. The ‘Siva Panchakshara Strotram’ choreographed in the Mangalacharan format set to raag Ahir Bhairav in taal Khemta was performed well by her students. The little children enthralled everyone with perfect coordination and spectacular display of formations on beautifully choreographed sequences.

Batu propitiating the bhairav aspect of Lord Shiva was performed next.  Pallavi, the pure dance number is a very graceful part of the Odissi repertoire. It places equal emphasis on the twin aspects of melody and rhythm. “Rae rae ma pa, ga rae rae rae sa” pallavi set to raag Arabhi in ek taali was performed by Argha Chatterjee, disciple of Sujata Mohapatra and Maya Krishnamurthy, disciple of Sharmila Mukherjee. Maya’s dance catches the eye. Tastefully costumed, the dancer’s meticulo us effort spoke forth. Neat chowkas and tribhangis surfaced right from the beginning. Argha has a sound training in the genre under the able guidance of Sujata Mohapatra. Gifted with a very attractive stage presence, the dancer’s movements are neat without a slightest overdo. However, he needs to work upon his level of concentration.

Argha Chatterjee & Maya Krishnamurthy

Madhulita Mohapatra

Younger students of Madhulita

Senior students in Moksha

In the only solo presentation of the evening, Madhulita Mohapatra mesmerised the connoisseurs with her abhinaya in the Ashtapadi “Yahi Madhava, Yahi Kheshava.” Pain of the dejected Radha on her beloved’s disloyalty and lies in the portrayal of the khandita nayika, the feeling and depth even in her stillness left a deep impact upon the rasikas.

A group of five dancers, Madhura Sarkar, Meghna Das, Soumya Sahoo, Sonalika Padhi and Anjali Raj Urs, students of Madhulita Mohapatra, delighted the audience with the “Keta Kata gadi gena dha” Pallavi set to raag Megh in taal jhampa. The dancers impressed everyone with their remarkable artistry. Their immaculate presentation of rhythmic phrases along with the movements concomitant to splashing of water, calls for appreciation. Originally choreographed by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra during a workshop, Madhulita’s brilliance lay in adapting the Megh pallavi choreography for the group with regard to structural changes and beautiful formations to suit the five dancers performing together on stage. The mellifluous movement with correct usage of the geometry of the proscenium with the dancers moving in tandem was delightful to watch. The ‘'S’ curve created during the asymmetrical tribhangi position with the beautiful permutation and combination of chowkas and charis proved the dancers’ skill with their minute nritta technicalities. They concluded with Moksha.

Panel discussion
The performance was followed by a panel discussion with panelists, Chiranjiv Singh, President, Alliance Française de Bangalore, Dr. M Surya Prasad, renowned musicologist, columnist and art critic, and Utkal Mohanty, Vice President and the mainstay of cultural activities of Orissa Cultural Association, Bangalore. The host of the event, Ashish Mohan Khokar, moderated the discussion. The knowledgeable and scholarly Chiranjiv Singh, spoke on the beauty of Odissi dance, its beginning, journey, growth and prevalence in the city of Bangalore and how Karnataka has emerged as another centre for Odissi outside Odisha. He raised his concerns on the purity of the art, on whether the purity gets diluted when the living tradition of Odisha in the divine living presence of Lord Jagannath is transplanted to a city like Bangalore.

Responding to the question, the learned Dr. M Surya Prasad referred to the idol of Lord Jagannath on the stage and said how beautifully the Mysore peta fits the Lord of Puri and this symbolises the cross culture harmony. He suggested using devaranamas in Odissi abhinaya to connect better with local audiences. Utkal Mohanty shared his childhood experiences with Odissi dance and its music and how the art form has grown in the city through all these years. Argha Chatterjee joined the discussion and spoke on the financial difficulties faced particularly by aspiring male dancers. Another performer of the evening, Meghna Das spoke about her learning and training along with her demanding academic engagements. Some viewers also took part and interacted with panelists with their questions and views.

Probal Gupta trained in Kathakali under two legends Late Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty and Guru Fact Padmanabhan. Probal specializes in Stree Vesham genre of Kathakali. He is currently training under Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan.