Samsmaranam dedicated to Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra on his tenth death anniversary
- Nita Vidyarthi
Photos: Arabinda Mahapatra

May 24, 2014

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra took Odissi to different parts of the world to its remotest corner. His disciples are distributed the world over. They are dancers of high calibre and distinguished teachers who carry forward his legacy and style with great elan, including his daughter-in-law, Sujata and his young granddaughter Preetisha, not to forget his illustrious son Guru Ratikant, a brilliant dancer/choreographer, a virtuoso in his own right, a very able administrator, and director of Srjan.

Slide show of Day 1 (April 7, 2014)

On Kelubabu’s 10th death anniversary, about 20 distinguished senior disciples from different parts of the country paid sober tribute to their guru by rendering some of his very best compositions with an offering of a garland of dance. Srjan in collaboration with Art Vision organized a three-day festival Samsmaranam (7th to 9th April 2014) in remembrance of this great guru at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar, where vocal and instrumental music were also included. The festival was inaugurated by The Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Department of Tourism and Culture, Dr. Arbind Padhi and Usha Padhi, Department of Education, in presence of renowned Odissi dancer Dr. Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi and other  dignitaries through a solemn ceremony after which the recitals began with a Mangalacharan by senior disciple Kumkum Mohanty, composed for her in 1981. Aloka Kanungo from Kolkata presented a Kha Champu “Khelalola Khanja Naki” composed in 1981 for the NCPA Champu Ballet. Both from Delhi, Sharon Lowen presented “Sakhi he” and Madhavi Mudgal, known for her sensitive abhinaya, rendered the Singhendra madhyam, ektali based “Prana sangini re” composed for her around 1976. Each evening included a couple of Pallavis, a group presentation apart from abhinaya pieces. The inaugural evening had Panchanan Bhuyan with the Gotipua tradition presenting Kirwani Pallavi and Rina Jana from Kolkata with Behag Pallavi. Meera Das and troupe Gunjan Dance Academy from Cuttack concluded the evening with Meera and “Moods of Rhythm,” both choreographed by her.

Slide show of Day 2 (April 8, 2014)

The morning session was devoted entirely to music, beginning with the recital of the acclaimed mardal player Sachidananda Das. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra encouraged him and was his inspiration  and he adored  the way Guruji played the  instrument. Das demonstrated the different aspects of mardal playing like orasa, ukuta, bhauri, kaudi, ragad, including the classical style of Ranighati sankirtan bols in the Master’s composition of Ardhanariswar. Violinist Ramesh Chandra Das played Misra Kafi in taal khemta and jhula spicing up his recital with witty anecdotes about Guruji and his close associate, the music composer Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra. Son Sarada Prassana at present in Benaras Hindu University joined him to present raag Bhopali,  madhyalaya, in the Carnatic vein, solely for entertainment. The Jhulan Geeta “Jholey Jholey  Radha Govinda” was followed by the soul-stirring ‘Vande Mataram’ in raag Desh. Bijay Kumar Jena, the reputed classical Odissi vocalist mentioned with reverence how much he owed to  Guruji for his singing career and that he was like his  son (putrabat). According to Jena, he came in contact with Guruji by chance when Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi could not manage to reach the studio for the recording of “Krishna Sudama” and Jena was called to step in. Since then Jena was his favourite and sang for him. The singer began with a very appealing raganga “Nikunjey jana jana braja juvaraaj Kanha” in raga Bajrakanti after a short alaap with an impressive mardal support by Sachidananda Das. “Aaj eki gumano re” (raga Chandrakanta) and “Chaho chaho re sangini” (raga Nata) were pleasing as was the concluding  natyanga song “Saja kanja nayana” used for Kumkum Mohanty’s abhinaya.

The evening had a mesmerizing beginning with the raga Mohana based mangalacharan “Mannikyaveena” by veteran Ramani Ranjan Jena. The dancer offered his body and soul to the piece composed in 1965 for Sanjukta Panigrahi, the grace of his hastas being a real treat. Another elegant abhinaya “Tolagi Gopadanda” first composed for Kumkum Mohanty in 1966 was presented by Pranati Mohanty. Young Subikash Mukherjee from Kolkata looked good in the ashtapadi “Rasey harim eha.” Rajashree Praharaj’s skilled performance of Hamsadhwani Pallavi first composed in 1979 for Kumkum Mohanty, reflected both her understanding of rhythm and the power to execute it competently. Sharmila Mukerjee from Bangalore effortlessly executed the Mohana Pallavi but she could have avoided the fixed smile throughout the performance.

Well trained dancers of Art Vision under the guidance of Ileana Citaristi presented a well-rehearsed not often seen Belawari Pallavi followed by a dazzling thematic presentation “Mahanadi” based on an age-old poem by Devdas Chottray on the saga of the great river of Odisha and a cradle of Odia culture. The myths related to the various places located along its course like that of Sabari, Visuavasu, Lalita-Vidyapati, and the escape of Lord Jagannath who hid in Patali Cuttack from the ire of Kalapahada and finally Bali Jatra on Kartik Purnima was presented through a fine visually pleasing imagery by the competent dancers with Ileana and Saswat Joshi in duet acting as the sutradhar. Though the movements of the duet by the sutradhars were repetitive, the fascinating scene of the waves with the dancers, holding hands while portraying crests and troughs with the projection of the flowing river on the screen at the back of the stage was highly praiseworthy. Lakshmikant Palit’s music added flavour to the whole production.

Slide show of Day 3 (April 9, 2014)

It was a morning to watch how the very young and upcoming Odissi dancers displayed their talents and there could not have been a better choice than the very talented Preetisha Mohapatra, who has gradually bloomed into a very fine and competent dancer to open the session. Her mangalacharan “Namami bighnaraja twam” showed her elegance, training and perfection of equilibrium. For the first time, Art Vision students Bharati Kashish and Divya Subakar  presented an Arabi Pallavi on stage and Batu was presented by Reebdhita Barua and Atmaja Bhaduri of Srjan. An intimate discussion on the personal experiences with Guruji by his disciples and friends brought to the fore the man and the great human being with his unparalleled  qualities to those who knew him and those who did not. It was a joy-tear–memory filled
emotional session with Kumkum Mohanty’s mimicry adding that humorous flavour to the somewhat heavy morning. The film “The Legend Speaks” on Guruji’s life by Ratikant was a welcome addition.

The evening extended the mood with a fine mangalacharan by the senior most Odissi dancer Dr. Minati Misra. It was rewarding to watch her perform a broad chauka in Shankaracharya’s ‘Jagannath Ashtakam’ set to Balakrushna Das’ music composed in 1974 for the International  Yoga Youth Festival in Switzerland. Debi Basu’s “Patha chhadi de” (composed in 1966), Daksha Mashruwala’s “Ahi neela shaila” (composed in1982 for Kumkum Mohanty), Kumkum Lal’s “Nahike kari dela” with the old world charm composed specially for Guruma Lakshmipriya Mohapatra in 1946 with traditional music was interesting. Dona Ganguly presented “Kuru yadu nandana” composed in 1967 for Sonal Mansingh and  Rajib Bhattacharya presented Kalyan Pallavi (1959).  Sujata Mohapatra’s “Ardhanarishwar” composed for Sanjukta Panigrahi in 1977  had her usual splendor, offering a poised reverence with open hands sitting in front of her Guru’s portrait kept at the front right hand corner of the stage. The grand finale was Srjan’s ‘Samakala’ and ‘Bhaja Govindam,’ both spectacular pieces choreographed by  Ratikant by weaving chiselled geometric patterns and executed by dancers competent and confident, to soul-stirring music.

The high point of the  dignified festival lies not only in its feast of dance presentation by the best in the country but in the rekindling and realisation of the bond that Guru  Kelucharan Mohapatra had established with his shishyas with Ratikant extending his  hands to make it even stronger. An exhibition of old photographs brought back memories for many! A special mention for the transient glance of Guruji’s photograph on the back of the stage when the curtain opened for a moment.

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.