Photos: Srivatsa Shandilya
September 9, 2022
Nrityantar's artistic director Madhulita Mohapatra not only has the vision of spreading her much loved Odissi dance in Karnataka, but also has been singularly magnanimous in providing a platform to the very best practitioners of the present generation in her all Odissi dance festival, Naman.
Naman 2022 opened at ADA Rangamandira with one who not without reason had been in the list of top ten dancers of New York Times in 2018. Her excellence and hold over nritta, nritya and natya is phenomenal. Her sensitivity towards subtlety in abhinaya was seen in "Pran sangini re..." when she confides to her Sakhi how she was befooled by Krishna who came in the garb of a woman to smear alta (the red coloured liquid) on her feet and how he put her on the back-foot by painting his name below her foot. A glimpse of her nritta to the strains of Bagesri - where silent pauses in music were eloquent - was outstanding, but her piece-de-resistance was "Murth Amurth." It recapitulated the endless cycle of movements from formless to form and from form to formless - nirakar, niradhar, nirahar and nirbikar - representing the supreme formless energy Brahman -the anchor or the adhar of the universe as mentioned in the Guru Granth Sahib. Arushi Mudgal's research led her to the concept of Purush who is the ultimate formless being, free from the cycle of birth and death.
Her piece opened with a verse from the Mundaka Upanishad that speaks of Purush who is both the Creator and Creation, is all pervading and is within all of us. Purush is personified in various divine forms. He is Ardhanariswar in the verse of Adi Shankaracharya, Maryada Purush Rama in Tulsidas' bhajan in Ramcharit Manas and mischievous Krishna in Surdas' verse. Arushi had a message for all of us in these trying times- call him Brahman, Shivam, Sakti, Krishna, Rama, Allah, Christ, or what pleases you, all of them address the same truth. The piece celebrated the union of the form and the formless. Powerful music composition of Madhup Mudgal and the dance composition skill of Arushi who has the Odissi vocabulary and idiom in her grip, was what endeared her to the audience. Sawani Mudgal's vocal rendition added to the success of Arushi's recital.
Madhulita Mohapatra's self composed choreographed dance-drama 'Shoonya to Sufi' scripted by Kedar Mishra uncannily shared the similar idea of happy co-existence, no matter what one's religious leanings are, came as a surprise. It gave me a peep into the thought process of young minds, which reflected the ideas of the founding fathers of independent India. Hope did not fly away from Pandora's box - which ultimately is expected to redeem mankind. Along with her repertory members Sahana Raghavendra Maiya, Nandhana Sashikumar, Subhangi Ghosh and Leah Rachel she embarked on a journey of exploration of the mystical philosophy of Sufism; realization of the self and the ultimate union with the Divine as preached in Advaita Vedanta and the unity and harmony of various faiths. The message propagated is, "seeker finds the soul inside of your soul. Search that soul." Sufi saint Rumi seems to have said the same thing. This idea strangely has been reflected in the poetry of great mystic poet of Odisha, Achyutananda Das.
Through Odissi dance and her innate capacity to emote, Madhulita Mohapatra's plea was to find God hidden inside one's soul. With references 'Nurun ala Nur' (An-Nur: 35) verse in Quran (the Light of Light) and excerpts from Upanishads, the dance presentation 'Shoonya to Sufi' practically started from the beginning of the Universe. As the drama progressed, the spiritual journey of the seeker, to find and surrender to his Creator, had quotes taken from Mirza Ghalib, Amir Khusro, Mahapurusha Achyutananda Das. There was much vibrancy and spark in the young group of dancers. Music composition by Sukanta Kumar Kundu, rhythm composition by Guru Dhaneswar Swain truly enhanced the quality of the production.
Rahul Acharya & Sourav Mohanty
Rahul Acharya, a disciple of Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, fits into my imagination of an exquisite piece of work of a sculptor. Seeing him perform, I was transported to a land of dreams where he performed Suryastaka - I saw numerous sculptures of Surya as visualised by poets and artists in movement, merging seamlessly into each other. All of Rahul's angas and upangas used perfectly with his muscles toned to the right shape. It was as if the dancer's body was carved in clay, where the sculptor moulded it at will. I sat mesmerized. The great sculptor in this case was Guru Durga Charan Ranbir of Debaprasad Das style of Odissi. Someday I hope to see his composition ability. Chakravaka Pallavi in tala ektali performed as duet with budding talent Sourav Mohanty was the much flavoured starter.
Tapati Chowdhurie 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.