- Nita Vidyarthi
Photos courtesy: Art Vision
April 14, 2022
Ileana Citaristis's organization Art Vision in collaboration with GKCM Odissi Research Centre presented 'Remembering Guruji' at the Utkal Rangamancha (Odissi Research Centre), Bhubaneswar on the occasion of the 18th death anniversary of her Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra on the 7th of April 2022. There could not have been a better way of remembering the legendary Guru than to pay homage through dance and music by four of his senior star disciples - Ileana Citaristi, Sikhata Das, Nandini Ghoshal and Rina Jana.
In Ileana Citaristi's words, "The event is meant to showcase some of the choreographic masterpieces composed by our Guru in their pristine form by senior students who learnt the items directly from him. Besides, this is also an occasion for the senior most students to go down memory lane and remember the happy hours spent in the class attending the teachings of our beloved Guru in his own house in Cuttack in the 80s and 90s. Guruji used to say that until one of his students will continue dancing, he will be alive among us. His legacy is continuing and expanding all over the world and we, who have been lucky to learn from him and to be with him for so many years, have the great responsibility to pass on his dances the way he taught us."
The evening that showcased some of the legend's best compositions was inaugurated by Madhusudan Padhi, Principal Secretary, Culture, Government of Odisha, and Subodh Chandra Acharya, Joint Director of Culture and Chief Executive, Odissi Research Centre.
It was reliving, observing, rekindling and dedicating to the dance form in the true 'Guru-Shishya Parampara' style for Ileana Citaristi and Sikhata Das from Cuttack, who had been with Kelubabu since the inception of the Odissi Research Centre in 1984 and Nandini Ghoshal and Rina Jana from Kolkata, who started learning from the Guru in the early 80s when he was associated with the Padatik Dance Centre in Kolkata. Truly for them, it was a reunion of sorts with friends and dancing not for performance excellence or achievement but for basking in the memories of his affection, his intelligence, style, mode of training, magical presentation, choreography, and lessons of life, apart from his commitment.
Live music added warmth to the scintillating performances and a sublime animation to the dancers' faces, even in the pure dance portions, for the audience to reflect on the magical moments of their involved presentations. The musicians accompanying the program have also had a long association with the Master having worked with him on many of his compositions; they were Sangeeta Gosain, vocal, Satchidananda Das, mardala, Ramesh Chandra Das, violin and Srinibas Satapathy on flute, together with young Rajesh Lenka.
The evening opened with the Mangalacharan "Kshyamanu Kampadaru" by Kavisurya Baladeva Rath set to raga Kedar, taal triputa by Ileana Citaristi. Each line of this last song of the Kishora Chandrananda Champu starts with the last consonant of the Odia alphabet. It is an invocation to Lord Vishnu, born out of Kshirasagara (milk ocean), and whose feet are worshipped by all the other Gods. He is compassionate and is the savior of the earth and of all the human beings in his different avatars. Even Lord Brahma, the rider of the swan and creator of the 4 vedas, worships him. This was composed by Guruji as part of the Champu dance drama choreographed in May 1983 and presented by his students at the Tata Theatre.
Rina Jana's Behag Pallavi that followed displayed her technical virtuosity required to negotiate the peculiar lilting and circular movements which distinguish this Pallavi from all the others composed by Kelubabu. Set to Ektali, it was from the NCPA workshop in 1988, and the music was by Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra.
The ashtapadi "Rase hari miha vihita vilasam" set to raga Kolavati, tala Joti by Ileana Citaristi was a dignified, sensitive, and intense portrayal of Radha as the virahotkanthita nayika, driven by envy after seeing Krishna rejoicing with the other gopis and in her depression confides with her friend about her secret recollection of Hari's seductive plays.
Negotiating the intricacies of the rhythms in Sabhinaya Pallavi or Taranga Pallavi in raga Belahari, tala Ektali using undulating movements was Nandini Ghoshal, who did full justice to the composition inspired from the movements of the gotipua dance. This Pallavi was composed in 1983 on the music composition of Bhubaneswar Mishra who set it to the tune of the lovely Odia song "Aja mu dekhili ghanashyama ku go" and the dance composition includes both the abhinaya to the song and the Pallavi composed on it. The variety of choreographic movements in the repetition "Aja mu" at the end of the melodic phrases was a real delight.
It was a pleasure to watch Sikhata Das presenting an involved poetic interpretation of the very popular Odia abhinaya "Malli mala Shyamoku debi" by Kavisamrat Upendra Bhanja set to raga Natanarayana, tala Jati with lasya in all its forms.
The disciples definitely made their revered Guruji proud and the evening meaningful for the audience with Moksha, the concluding item of an Odissi recital by all the four dancers as a final act of surrender to the Almighty. A special mention for another senior disciple Itisree Devi who steered the program reminiscing highly interesting and often humorous anecdotes in-between each of the performances with a happy face and a twinkle in her eyes throughout.
Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.