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Odisha Diary
Painter Jatin Das, 6th national Short and Documentary Film Festival at Bhubaneswar

- Dr. Sunil Kothari

February 18, 2012

The Venue: Jatin Das Centre for Arts, near Khandagiri caves.
Occasion: The three day short and documentary film festival - this is the finale.
Date: 13th January 2012

The stage was below, with trees resembling a Kunj, a bower in Brindaban. Well lit up, for dancers to perform. The invitees sit on various levels of the rocks, enjoying the ambience. No drinks are served when dance is performed. Pin drop silence. The music fills the air and four dancers enter the stage. They are to perform Mahari dance repertoire to music on a CD. Dressed in traditional costumes, with typical flower tiara hair decoration, they offer Bhumi Pranam, a dance number for the prayer "Jagannathaswami Nayan Pathagami, bhavtu me!"


Inauguration by Governor of Orissa

I am asked to introduce the number and mention that amongst us we have the senior dancer Dr. Priyambada Mohanty, who had performed Odissi dance in Inter University Youth Festival in 1954, and Odissi was then discovered. Dr. Mohanty had studied it under traditional gurus but was not at all aware that her performance would lead to the discovery of Odissi as a classical dance form, and its revival, creating an unprecedented excitement in the dance world. Indrani Rahman, the celebrated dancer saw it, Dr. Charles Fabri, the renowned historian from Hungary hailed it as a classical dance form of Orissa, Dr. Mayadhar Mansingh, the poet and literary giant of Odisha guided Indrani, and young Guru Deba Prasad Das taught her. Earlier, devadasis known as Maharis in Odisha, used to dance in Jagannath Temple at Puri and in other places. In 1958, during All India Dance Seminar held by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, poet Kali Charan Patanaik had read a paper on Odissi and Guru Deba Prasad had demonstrated with one young dancer Jayanti Ghosh, salient features of Odissi dance. I was fortunate to attend the seminar and had seen the demonstration and the brief performance. The rest is history.

For the last six years, the well known painter Jatin Das holds this one and only national short and documentary film festival at Bhubaneswar for three days, inviting film makers, film historians, leading lights from the world of art, viz., artists, painters, poets from all over India, with the help of film historian and veteran film festival organizer Aruna Vasudev, experts like Jai Chandiram, Delhi film society secretary Radhakrishnan, documentary film maker and writer Suresh Kohli and several friends interested in promoting cause of short and documentary films under the banner of his JD Centre of Art (JDCA).

Jatin and I are neighbours in Delhi at Asiad Village. We have been friends since 1957 when he came to study painting at Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai. During those years at Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute on Warden Road, its trustee, the lawyer Soli Batliwala, used to give studio space to painters charging them a minimum of Rupee one only. Legendary painters like MF Hussain, Gaitonde, Dashrath Patel and several others converged there. Jatin joined them. I used to visit Bhulabhai Memorial Institute with Sonal Mansingh (nee Pakvasa) as she was practicing Bharatanatyam there with Jayalakshmi Alva. Alkazi saab used to give lectures on blue period of Picasso. My painter friend Bhupen Khakhar and I used to attend those lectures. It was a meeting place of musicians, dancers, actors, writers. Those were the halcyon days. Jatin and I remained in touch with each other and when I was editing Marg volume on Chhau dances of India, for research on Mayurbhanj Chhau dances I stayed in 1966 with Jatin at Baripada, from where he hails.

He is passionate about the JD Centre of Art that he has set up at Bhubaneswar to further the cause of visual and plastic arts. The approach is holistic bringing together tribal, folk, classical and contemporary art forms under one roof. The one acre land was given to Jatin in 1998 free of premium by Government of Odisha. They also gave him a large house for storage of art objects and functioning of the centre till the museum gets ready.

The design and master plan have been made by the architect Balkrishna V Doshi which has been approved by the local authorities. In 2004 the centre held its first major programme, a national seminar on conservation of art of nature and man made art. Also simultaneously, a National Camp for sculptors and potters was held. For the past 10 years, Jatin is organizing 'Meet the Artists' monthly program. In 2006, the JDCA Film Forum was set up for archiving short and documentary films on art and artists. This non-competitive film festival is supported by the Central and State governments.

The centre will house, conserve and promote whole range of arts: photography, sculpture, crafts, graphics, films, architecture, pottery, painting, handicrafts, handlooms and hand fans etc. More than 6,500 pankhas (fans) are collected and they have travelled world over. The latest exhibition was at Maximum India at the Kennedy centre at Washington DC in March 2011.

Jatin has more ambitious plans: to have an open air auditorium, 22 galleries for various objects, artifacts, antiquity, books, paintings, toys, his own works and also those of his contemporaries, publications programs and outreach program for schools. The Short and Documentary Film Festivals have screened several documentary films by directors from all over India. The collection of CDs, DVDs of documentary and short films is a veritable archive. All the activities of the Centre have been funded by the sale of Jatin's paintings and a trust has been formed granting exemption under section 80 G.

Several eminent film personalities, film makers from all over India have participated in these festivals. Name them and all of them have lent Jatin support from year to year. I was roped in to bring films on dance and films made by Indian Diaspora dancers. Kumar Shahani, Arun Khopkar, KG Subramaniam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Jatin's daughter film actor Nandita Das, his brother Biren Das, local poets like Sitakant Mahapatra, Ramakant Rath, Devdas Chhotray, JP Das, local film makers Nirad Mahapatra, Italian dancer Ileana Citaristi settled in Bhubaneswar for past 33 years, local journalists, Odissa governor Murali Bhandare, photographer Raghu Rai, a list too long to mention here, have generated interest in short films and an entire young generation of IT students, MBA students throng to see the films.

Jatin Das and Raghu Rai


Nirad Mahapatra and Jatin Das

Sujata Kulshreshtha, Renuka George, Uma Magal, Kavita Bahl

This year the theme was 'Celebrating and Reminiscing Masters' who recently passed away - Jehangir Sabavala, MF Hussain, Dashrath Patel, Rudra Veena player Ustad Asad Ali Khan, who was Jatin's and my neighbor at Asiad Village, BC Sanyal saab, Mani Kaul. Documentary films on them and Mani Kaul's films, Nandan Saxena and his wife Kavita Saxena's films on poetry, Renuka George's film on Ustad Asad Ali Khan, Navroz Contractor's film on Zadu (brooms), Arun Khopkar's on Jehangir Sabavala - Absence of Colours - one on Hussain when he was in Dubai and painters from India went there to see him, film made by Bidisha Ray Das, were screened and were attended by large crowds.

The films are screened at Suchana Bhavan, and Jatin designs a pandal for exhibition of Odiya handlooms, crafts, and photographs (plus typical Odiya delicacies), and manages to get ready in time catalogue of films with synopsis, giving brief introductions of films to be screened. Memorable films screened were on Ustad Asad Ali Khan, Mani Kaul's The Cloud Door, films on poems of Basho by Nandan and Kavita Saxena, The Story of Zadu by Navroz Contractor, MF Hussain's short films Culture of Street, Six days of Making, Film on Raghu Rai during his visit to Kumbha Mela made by Suresh Kohli, Sujata Kulshreshtha's film on painter Satish Gujral, Gialogue, a 3 minute short film on painting and environment where factory is located by Hyderabad based film maker Uma Magal, Devi Prasad by Ajai Chawla etc.

There was an excellent session of poetry reading by nine eminent Odiya poets and poster poems on special posters, a novel concept. JP Das had conceived this session. Ramakant Rath, Sitakant Mahapatra, Hariprasad read poems in Odiya and also their English translation. To involve creative persons from different walks of life was a wonderful idea and a full house attended that memorable session.

Often photographer Raghu Rai, others and I who knew some of the film makers were asked to speak about them. There was an interesting interaction and sometimes local members also asked questions. It was an intense experience. Evenings were devoted to get-togethers, performances by local artistes and dinners at the site, so that people could meet at leisure in a celebratory mood. Also delegates at Ginger Hotel spent time discussing various issues over breakfast and planned on how to strengthen the movement.

The catalogues of past five film festivals and the present one give a mine of information and material for students of films and film makers. It has been now decided to hold a festival in January every year for three days. Aruna Vasudev, Jai Chandiram, Nandan and Kavita Saxena, Radhakrishnan, Raghu Rai, Uma Vasudev, myself and a host of well wishers have decided to streamline the festival so that the best of the films shall be screened and the aim of promoting short films and documentary films be achieved in a more meaningful manner. Bhubaneswar seems to be agog with a series of festivals of dance, music, and allied arts at this time - besides well known Konark Dance Festival, Dhauli Festival, Kalinga Martial Arts Festival, Mukteswar Dance Festival, Raja Rani Music Festival and this festival of short and documentary films is another unique festival, one and only of its kind.

Dr. Sunil Kothari
Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is honored by the President of India with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC. He is a regular contributor to, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 11 years.

I have gone through your report. It would have been nice to mention that I had organized Festival of Films on Performing and Visual Arts from 1996 onwards at Bhubaneswar. You can see the details in When this was suspended mainly for lack of proper auditorium (I was showing 35mm prints, not DVD), I curated a special package of films on dance called Dance with the Camera for 3 consequent editions of MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival) in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
- Ileana Citaristi
(Feb 25, 2012)

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