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Saare Jahan se Accha
- Tapati Chowdhurie
Photos courtesy: Utsav

August 26, 2020

Ranjana Gauhar's Utsav Educational and Cultural Society has always been organizing major annual dance festivals like 'Unbound Beats of India' for upcoming and outstanding dancers; Su-Tarang celebrating young dancers for World Dance Day and 'Saare Jahan Se Accha' commemorating India's Independence Day, where senior and established dancers of the country pay their tribute to the martyrs and achievers of the nation.

In the 15th edition of the three-day (Aug 13-15) dance festival 'Saare Jahan Se Accha,' Utsav celebrated the theme 'Guru-Shishya Parampara' where the Guru showcased the brilliance of his or her training. Due to the pandemic the festival was hosted online via social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. An interesting feature in this festival was that each day a technical expert from the field of photography, videography and light design spoke about their craft in relation to dance.

On the very first day of the virtual festival, viewers got a chance to see an abhinaya piece by Meera Das, choreographed by her legendary guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. "Sakhi he keshi" from the Geeta Govindam has been immortalized by the Odissi guru. Meera Das meticulously acted out Radha's role as abhisarika nayika, smitten by Cupid's arrows. She pleads with her friend to bring Krishna, the slayer of Keshi, to her. Meera traced the romantic tale of the love adventure of Radha, as she relates it to her friend. Reminiscing about her first meeting with Krishna, wide eyed with excitement, she said there was a knock on her door by Krishna's messenger one night urging her to visit him clandestinely. The miming of crimson faced Radha's love journey to Krishna's hideout and the passion of their first union was replete with perfection. Her intense desire to meet Krishna again makes tears of love trickle down the face. Surely Sakhi would not be able to ignore it. Pt Bhubaneswar Mishra's composition brought the piece alive.

Meera Das

Avijit Das

Dance photographer Innie Singh's talk happened next, followed by Kuchipudi dancer Avijit Das who performed daruvu Koluvaithiva Rangasai in ragam Ramapriya and adi talam to a Balantrapu Rajnikanta Rao composition. The lyric was attributed to Devulapalli Venkata Krishna Sastry. The dance composition was by Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. Art is not bounded by narrow walls. If it was, then Avijit Das, a Bengali boy, would not have been smitten with Kuchipudi dance.

The dance unfolded the story of the beautiful and happy Lord Ranganatha -with Laxmi in his heart - in his ananthasayana position in the ocean of bliss. Even thousand eyes were insufficient to admire this ethereal beauty. The poet likened him to the beautiful virajaji flowers with Kaustubha mani adorning the lord's chest along with the thulasi maala and kasthuri thilakam on his forehead, translated fluidly in the language of dance. Ranganatha's glance looking at the three worlds with pure love and excitement was presented well. "Mangalam Bhavatute Bharata Janani", a composition of Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri choreographed by the performer is a stepping stone in the dancer's ability at choreography. It was a salutation to the motherland, befitting the festival 'Saare Jahan se Accha.'

On the second day, Kathaka Divya Goswami Dixit, disciple of Guru Munna Shukla, commenced with Tarana in raag Kalavati in teen taal, drut laya with the alacrity of a seasoned dancer. Jhoola, a Bindadin Maharaj composition in raag Desh, taal rupak was a delectable piece. Jhoolat Radhe nawal kishore swept the audience away in the romance of monsoon magic, when Jhoola songs are sung. Siddharth Daniels' talk on videography and video editing was highly appreciated by performers, who more often than not are in the dark about how it works.

Divya Goswami Dixit

Gaurie Dwivedi

The audience was entertained with yet another dancer from the Guru Kelucharan genre of Odissi dance in Gaurie Dwivedi. The chance of seeing a Guru Ratikant Mohapatra composition and choreography happened in the invocatory piece to the holy trinity of the Hindu pantheon. The next piece, was an ashtapadi Hari riha mugdha badhu, a popular choreographic work of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in raag Shankarabarnam and taal ektaali. It is interesting to note that Gowrie, besides being a committed dancer, is also a journalist of repute.

On the Independence Day, Guru Ranjana Gauhar made a special presentation. The offering of the mythological tale Chandrabhaga in impeccable Odissi carried the unique style that Ranjana has developed in her long journey. I recall Ranjana saying, "I am an Oriya girl born to Punjabi parents." The beauty of Chandrabhaga born from the sea and leading her life on its shores playing with the waves of the ocean was aesthetically choreographed. The mythological and magical web created by its author, had both Cupid and Surya fight for supremacy. To prove who was mightier of the two, Kamadev challenged Surya to win the beautiful Chandrabhaga in love. Chandrabhaga is enamored with the handsome Surya, giving the choreographer enough scope to devise love dalliances with the couple. But the alarmed Kamadev shot an arrow of hate with instant results. Chandrabhaga spurned Surya's overtures. Surya bent on winning her made her turn to her mother, who enveloped her. The short-lived love saga ended in tragedy. The opening scene where Chandrabhaga with her unparalleled charm is playing with the waves at the seashore caught the imagination. Utsav's repertory team was excellent.

Ranjana Gauhar

Debasish Pattnaik

Veteran Sandeep Dutta spoke on stage lighting. With Debasish Pattnaik's Odissi dance rendition, the event came to a close. He performed Ragesree Pallavi displaying his adeptness in pure dance. It was a Sukanta Kundu composition, the rhythm of which was composed by Guru Niranjan Patra. Through Debasish's performance, one got to see the magic that Guru Durgacharan Ranbir is capable of creating with Debaprasad Das genre of Odissi. Sadhna Shrivastav, the master of ceremonies, was at her best.

Tapati Chowdurie trained under Guru Gopinath in Madras and was briefly with International Centre for Kathakali in New Delhi. Presently, she is a freelance writer on the performing arts.

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