Odissi dance drama 'Padmavati'
- Dr. Nita Vidyarthi
e-mail: nitavidyarthi@gmail.com  
Photos courtesy:  Kolkata Mayur Lalit Dance Academy

May 15, 2014

After a number of successful dance dramas like Meghnad Badh, Meghdootam, Padavali-Raas Lila and exploration with Tagore’s work, well known Odissi dancer Debamitra Sengupta with  her repertory and students of Kolkata Mayur Lalit Dance Academy presented her latest production ‘Padmavati’ together with a number of pure dance items and an abhinaya as a tribute to Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra on his tenth death anniversary at Rabindra Sadan, Kolkata.

Trained under the legendary guru, Debamitra honed her skills with the late Sanjukta Panigrahi and the city based Sutapa Talukdar but has used her perception to add colour to her artistic productions. Honoured as the “Aasthana Vidushi” from the 33rd Acharya of Shakatapuram Shrividya Peetam, Karnataka, the dancer has a fine sense of production techniques. The evening began with the felicitation of honourable guests, Rajashree Behera, Regional Director, Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, Kolkata, Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, the illustrious son of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, dancer and social worker Alokananda Roy, Guru Sutapa Talukdar, and script writer and lyricist Pandit Nityananda Mishra, Sanskrit scholar from Bhubaneswar.

The first half of the evening was a bouquet of Odissi nritta and nritya by Debamitra’s students beginning with the Shiva Panchakshara Stotra, “Nagendra Haraya,” an all time favourite for classical dancers of all disciplines, composed by Guru Sutapa Talukdar. ‘Yugmadwanda Pallavi’ is rather challenging but the students proved their training to negotiate it well. An Odia abhinaya “Bhangi Chaha” based on the eternal love of Radha and Krishna was a good effort. Debamitra then ventured to present Ardhanarishwara, a landmark creation by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra composed originally in 1977 for Sanjukta Panigrahi set to Pt Raghunath Panigrahi’s music and now performed brilliantly by his daughter-in-law Sujata as he had taught her. Debamitra  delineated the lasya of Parvati and tandava of Shiva, contrasting their personalities and their embellishments as described by Shankaracharya and portraying the philosophical aspect of unified existence and cosmic balance to the best of her efforts. However, the tandava could have been more balanced.

The main attraction of the evening was the dance drama ‘Padmavati’ based on the famous medieval Odia legend “Kanchi Abhijaan or Kanchi Bijoy” with dramatic adaptation by the leading Sanskrit and Odia scholar–poet Pandit Nityananda Mishra. Scripted by Pandit Mishra,   the legend reflects the love of the handsome king of Puri, Gajapati Purushottam Deva for the beautiful princess Padmavati of Kanchi. The king, who also rules Anga, Banga and Kalinga sends a messenger to the king of Kanchi asking for Padmavati’s hand. The haughty king of Kanchi rejects the proposal saying that “Gajapati sweeps the floor of Lord Jagannath’s chariot. How can I marry off my daughter to a sweeper?” Unable to digest the insult, Gajapati wages a war against Kanchi but loses and surrenders to the feet of Lord Jagannath. Ordered by the lord, Gajapati takes another chance to attack Kanchi and wins with the help of Lord Balabhadra (Subhashish Chakravarty) and Lord Jagannath (Subikash Mukherjee) disguised as soldiers, and the blessings of Devi Subhadra (Nayanika Sengupta). Gajapati returns to Puri with Padmavati and to avenge the insult orders his mantri (minister) to marry off Padmavati to a sweeper. The clever minister takes Padmavati to his house and finally on the day of Rath-jatra, when Gajapati sweeps the floor, he unites the princess and the king (then a sweeper of Lord Jagannath!). The sweet legend has been beautifully choreographed by Debamitra who is a lovely Padmavati with a fine stage presence. The joyous dance with the sakhis, the fighting and finally the union of Gajapati with Padmavati are some of the best choreographic pieces.

Rajib Bhattacharya, an experienced dancer, is convincing as Gajapati. Krishnendu Roy, another well-trained dancer, fits into the role of the minister. And little Nayanika as Devi Subhadra and Subikash as Jagannath could not have been a better choice. They both danced through their roles beautifully! Odia and Sanskrit lyrics by Pandit Mishra are set to Bijay Kumar Jena’s music, who also sings the lovely numbers with Nazia Alam, Harapriya Swain and Sourav Nayek. The rhythm composed by Bijoy Kumar Barik complements Debamitra’s able direction and neat choreography. The one hour dazzling production boasts of brilliant costumes and good team work apart from being a highly enjoyable dance drama.

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a critic of performing arts, specialising in dance, dance theatre and expressions and is a regular contributor to The Hindu, and the Statesman Kolkata in dance, vocal music and theatre. She is trained in Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Manipuri as well as vocal, semi-classical music and Rabindra Sangeet. A Science communicator, Ph.D. in Polymer Science, Commonwealth Scholar and a retired Professor of Chemistry, Nita devotes most of her time to dance and theatre writing.