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Prachi Hota in Odissi impresses
Photos: Sanjit Debroy

July 21, 2019

Young and personable Prachi Hota has been trained in Odissi by Arpita Venkatesh from when she was three and then by late Guru Harekrushna Behera from when she was eight.  She continued to study under him for more than nine years, in between studying also from his daughter Kavita Dwibedi. Over the years she also studied under Aruna Mohanty, and occasionally under Kum Kum Mohanty. Currently she is continuing her studies under Y. Ashakumari.

The fare she offered was varied as she has studied under various gurus. The opening Mangalacharan was choreographed by Aruna Mohanty. In praise of Lord Shiva, the well known Sanskrit prayer Nagendra Haraya explored the five elements, with multiple forms of the god as Ardhanarishwara, placing one palm on half of the face and later on other side. With such subtle touches, Vashishth Kumbhodbhavaya, Yakshaswarupaya, Digambaraya, evoking the forms with hastabhinaya and sculpturesque poses, she succeeded in performing with ease and cultivated practice for years.

Pallavi in Vajrakanti raga, taught to her by Guru Harekrushna Behera and revised by Kavita Dwibedi saw her executing the arasas, dance units, and movements with confidence. The incorporating of putting on various ornaments, playing upon musical instruments like manjira, embellished the item. The resolutions of the movements were perfect and poses admirable. The last portion in pallavi, when there is badhat, fast pace, was handled with confidence and perfection. Prachi concluded the pallavi with Darpani, looking into mirror pose.

Ashtapadi from Gita Govinda is an invariable part of abhinaya in Odissi recital. Choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, 'Chandana charchita, nila kalevar' found felicitous expression in Prachi's rendering. The stanzas 'karatala tala' had several variations suggesting a variety of talas in which gopis were performing with Krishna, and the tintinnabulations of the small bells on bangles and also on anklets, the way Kelubabu has choreographed, is a sheer pleasure to watch. The repartee between the percussionist and the dancer was enjoyable. To top it not only the flute, but also singing in 'Pancham raga', as the poet describes, created the atmosphere where Krishna and gopis were seen performing with joy.

The piece de resistance was 'Brajaku chor', the traditional lullaby choreographed by Kelubabu on Kum Kum Mohanty, who had taught Prachi this song for abhinaya. Full of vatsalya bhava, motherly love, it shows Yashoda cajoling Krishna to go to sleep, warning him that a thief has come and if he does not go to bed, he shall whisk him away. Like Bakasura in guise of a crane, Denukasura, a demon in form of a bull and so on, the thieves have come to Braja. "You are my wealth, O Krishna, and you are like full moon for me, I do not want to lose you," says Yashoda. She lifts him and places him on her back and glides on the floor, but naughty Krishna does not return to bed. She tries to catch him, but he rolls on the floor, throws a fit and cries; when Yashoda tries to hold him and take him to her lap, he slaps her and Yashoda marvels at his pranks. He steals earth and eats it to the horror of Yashoda and when she offers him butter, he makes faces disapproving the bitter taste! Kelubabu has captured all these nuances poetically and Kum Kum having performed several times has earned reputation for her inimitable abhinaya as a child Krishna. She has transmitted the magic to Prachi and she did Kum Kum proud.

The finale Moksha in Bairagi raga with another prayer in praise of Lord Shiva chosen by Prashant Behera and choreographed by Y. Ashakumari was on a quiet mood, with recitation of Om Shanti Shanti, Shanti. With exquisite lighting by Sandip Dutta, it enhanced the mood. The team of musicians consisting of Prashant Maharana on mardala, Prashant Behera on vocal, Balaram Chand on violin and Dhiraj Pande on flute, gave Prachi competent support. Sadhana Srivastava's commentary was conducted with her customary finesse.

Prachi was fortunate to perform before a galaxy of veteran dancers, connoisseurs, critics and leading lights of dance world. The celebrated senior dancer Yamini Krishnamurty who had studied Odissi under Adi Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Anupama Mohan, well known for her role of Narada in Vempati Chinna Satyam's several dance dramas had specially come from Kerala, Kum Kum Mohanty from Bhubaneswar, the principal and star disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, and local dancers Madhavi Mudgal, Sharon Lowen, Kavita Dwibedi and several others blessed Prachi.

We learnt on this occasion that Prachi will be pursuing her studies in film making in London, after having studied in Prague. We hope she will continue to pursue Odissi dance in which she has invested so much and has shown promise as a gifted dancer.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and critic, Padma Shri awardee and fellow, Sangeet Natak Akademi. Dance Critics' Association, New York, has honoured him with Lifetime Achievement award.

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