- Tapati Chowdhurie
Photos courtesy: Kalpodip
November 6, 2022
Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Kalpodip Utsav was celebrated recently at Rabindra Bhavan in Jalpaiguri. It was their seventh edition. Very significantly the inaugural dance in Odissi style by the Artistic Director of Kalpodip, Pompi Paul and her group, was a vandana to the Goddess of learning. Saraswati was venerated aesthetically through "Ya kundendu tushara hara..."
The highlight of the festival was the dance performances of eminent artistes like Odissi Guru Ratikant Mohapatra and Rajashri Praharaj, as well as Kathak exponent Paramita Maitra. Kalpodip also provided a platform for young and talented performers like Sreeparna Chakraborty, Pritam Das and other performers from North Bengal. In actuality, there were too many performers and hence time management went haywire. Also apart from excellence, there was mediocrity. Some groups lacked the polish needed for a prestigious performance like the kind Kalpodip intended to showcase. There was a lack of audition regarding those who could present their work.
It indeed was a rare opportunity to hear Sundari Vadya played by Bhimanna Jadhav and Gurunath Jadhav of Solapur accompanied on the tabla by Apurba Mukherjee of Kolkata. The Sundari Vadya player duo belong to the third generation of Sundari Vadya performers. Sundari is an instrument of Sushir folk music group. It is a sort of shehnai, smaller in size. The family of these players has a long history dating back to the year 1922-23 when their ancestor Baburao Jadav played this instrument in Maharaja Fatehsingh Bhonsle's palace, who wanted to hear an instrument smaller in size than the shehnai. The king was so pleased that he called the instrument Sundari. Sundari Vadya is in the category of 'rare instrument'. The duo played raag Behag and Mishra Dhun and won the hearts of the audience.
Kathak dancer Sreeparna Chakraborty - accompanied on the tabla by Biswajit Pal, on the sitar by Chandrachur Bhattacharjee and the singing of Arindam Bhattacharya - a senior disciple of Dr. Malabika Mitra, performed Durga Stuti with a kavit in Mishra jati switching over to vilambit teen taal and showcased uthan, thaat, upaj, ladi and paran. Gat bhav, jugalbandi, chakradhar paran and tathkar were in drut teen taal.
Rising star of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra school of Odissi, Rajashri Praharaj presently under the tutelage of Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, was a marvel on stage with her presentation of Varsha. The imageries and motifs used personified Varsha. The tingling feel of the rains was easy to re-imagine sitting on comfortable chairs, mentally helping in warding off the summer heat.
Ratikant Mohapatra, director of Srjan, an accomplished mardala player, dance exponent, choreographer and scholar, has another feather in his cap. Presently he is also the Dean, Faculty of Art, Communication and Indic Studies in Sri Sri University. He has created a world class dance institute, where aspirants throng from all corners of the globe to learn Odissi dance. The performance of 'Shabari' by Ratikant reached new heights with his excellence. He managed to capture the bhakti bhava of Shabari in a way like no other, raising it to an all time great presentation.
Young Bharatanatyam performer Pritam Das won over the audience with a composition of Ponniah Pillai of the Tanjore Quartet. "Mohamana" varnam in ragam Bhairavai and rupaka talam was a plea of the protagonist to Lord Thyagaraja of Thiruvarur to accept her love. Love in a varnam has a very different connotation. Love lifts one from mundane feelings and transports one to the highest level of realization where every other feeling is meaningless. Her heart beats in tandem to his cosmic dance. She confidently demands his attention and not be inaccessible and unreachable to her like the tallest mountain peaks and stars. In the sanctum sanctorum of his temple in Thiruvarur, his heart beats within her. She expresses her wish to be spiritually and physically united with her lord Thyagaraja. He performed to recorded music to the choreography of Bharatanatyam exponent Rama Vaidyanathan.
Soon after this, Kalpodip's repertory members and Pompi Paul performed Adana Pallavi, a pure dance piece and brought the audience back to the real world. The festival gave the audience an opportunity to listen to sitarist Subhobrata Dey of Bishnupur Gharana accompanied on the tabla by Apurba Banerjee. Raag Saraswathy in jhap taal was a listeners' delight.
Artistic director of Nrityangan Kathak Kendra of Behrampur in West Bengal and Yakshini Kathak and Culture Centre in Kolkata, Paramita Maitra trained by Pt Vijay Shankar, later to hone her skills under Pt Birju Maharaj has made a name for herself. She performed with live music in Jalpaiguri - a thing which has of late become a rarity. Her accompanists were tabalia Biswajit Pal, sitarist Chandrachur Bhattacharya, vocalist Arindam Bhattacharya and Subir Thakur who recited the bol padhant. She began her performance with a vandana before Ardhanariswar (Ardhang), the music of which was a composition of Pt Birju Maharaj in his own voice. In vilambit teen taal of sixteen beats she treated the audience to the crispness of the technique of Kathak. She danced into the hearts of the audience with uthaan, thaat, aamad, tukra, padhant and tihai. It was a beautifully woven garland by one who has complete grip over the genre. Abhinaya was not left far behind. The ghazal "Aaj jane ki zid na karo" left the audience spellbound.
Natanikkan Arts and Dance institution at Jalpaiguri, founded by Jhinuk Roy Chakraborty, is known for teaching Guru Bipin Singh style of Manipuri. Natanikkan presented Mangalacharan paying their obeisance to Krishna and Radha Krishna Sanchar. It commenced with pung playing after which he who is the Lord of bliss - also known as Raseshwara - was invoked. 'Sanchar' - the soul of the idol - was based on taal Tanchep, a unique creation of Guru Bipin Singh. The piece 'Swarmala Prabandha,' a musical composition involving combinations of six segments namely pada that is basically a poem; pata or syllables in tala or rhythm; swara or musical notes; tenaka or vocal syllables which convey a sense of auspiciousness and biruda, words of praise for the protagonist and the name of the poet. From the dances the audience had a glimpse of Gaudiya Vaishnavism; the culture of Manipur; their Khubak Ishei - the clap dance where men and women relate the story of Vishnu's ten incarnations, performed during the procession of Rath Yatra showcased tellingly in both lasya and tandava style in taal tanchep and menkup by Susmita Bhowmick, Tamanna Roy, Suvra Bhowmick, Sanchita Roy, Shayeri Singha and Jayati Bain. Bharatanayam and Kathak by Nritya Malancha was presented by Sangita Chaki. Perhaps because of the two diametrically opposite forms taught by Chaki, there seemed to be a lack of perfection in either of the styles.
Pompi Paul of Kalpodip performed Arabhi Pallavi in taal Ektali, a memorable composition by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Pt Bhubaneswar Mishra, with her team - Rahul Roy, Moumita Roy, Susmita Roy Susanta Das and Subrata Das. This and Moksha were impressive. In her own inimitable way, Pompi Paul has been following her goal of introducing Odissi dance to North Bengal. Today Pompi Paul is a much sought after artiste.
The occasion was made meaningful with a seminar held to emphasize the importance of theoretical knowledge, besides learning to dance. The seminar also discussed the importance of music in a dance performance. As all forms of artistic endeavor is interlinked Kalpodip collaborated with different young artistes like photographers, painters, weavers, and craftsmen, and displayed their art work through an exhibition during the festival. Lights were designed by Debiprasad Mishra.
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.