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Guru Sudhakar Sahu
- Vani Madhav, Gurgaon

April 4, 2010

Born on January 1, 1935, Guru Sudhakar Sahu, who follows the lineage of Guru Debaprasad Das, is a much revered Odissi teacher. He is the recipient of Junior Fellowship, Senior Fellowship from Govt. of India and Dept. of Culture, Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Kalinga Bharati Sachidananda Award (1991). On his turning 75 this year, his students pay their respects with a special performance on April 12 at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar.

What attracted you to dance?
My father Duryodhan Sahu was a musicologist; he used to sing mythological stories and explain the meaning to all the village people in Baidyakateni. He was also good at Chanda, Champu and Odissi songs. My mother Kanakalata Sahu was a good listener. I learnt music from my father ever since I was 7 years old, and participated in Jatra in my village.

My first guru was Duryodhan Mohanty from whom I started learning dance. Slowly I developed interest in music along with dance. During 1950, I became a part of Annapurna 'B' Group in Cuttack and during 1953 under the direction of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, I played the role of Madhumangal in a dance drama called 'Giri Goverdhan Puja.'

When were you attracted towards Odissi style?
After seeing my performance in various dance dramas, Guru Debaprasad Das offered to teach me Odissi dance, and since then, I became his student as long as he lived. In 1953, the entire Odissi dance was completed in 10 minutes; there were no such divisions, the way it is right now.

My first performance was in Delhi in a dance drama called 'Sarat Rasa' in the role of Krishna, directed by Deba Sir himself. There was a research centre established on Odissi dance and music by Sangeet Natak Academi in Puri. I was selected to receive scholarship from this research centre and got the opportunity to learn from Guru Padmanabha Das, who was well known for his Gotipua dance. I later learnt from Guru Mohan Mohapatro.

Can you narrate your experiences with dancers?
Indrani Rehman was the first dancer with whom I went for performances to play mardal and sometime as a vocalist. She was well behaved and her abhinaya was wonderful; she had tremendous confidence on the stage.

About your teaching experience?
My first student was Indira Pattnayak (cousin of Priyamvada Mohanty). She took 2 years training from me. Next was Bijayalaxmi Mohanty. Her father was a social worker. When I was in Puri, the secretary of Kishore Club, Purna Chandra Mandala, requested me to teach dance to Bijayalaxmi Mohanty. In Orissa, I introduced Bandha Nritya amongst the female dancers and Bandha Nritya was taught first to Bijayalaxmi Mohanty. She was phenomenal in Bandha Nritya as well as in Odissi dance. Whenever she performed, other performers used to fear to showcase their talent before her. I trained Bijayalaxmi for almost 10 years. I travelled with her all over the country for performances.

From 1962, I taught Nita Bahidar, whom I trained for a span of 10 to 12 years. After that, so many disciples from India and abroad approached me. I also taught in various parts of Orissa such as Balesore, Mayurbhanj, Bhadrak, Bhubaneshwar, Berhampur, Chatrapur.
My present senior most disciples are Vani Madhav, Itishree Mohanty, Poornima Barik, Deepty Mishra, Urmila.

Tell us about your popular choreographic works.
I have choreographed many dance dramas like Manini, Shakuntala, Konark, Bichitra Barna. In Odissi dance, I have choreographed Kalyan Pallavi, Ananda Bhairavi, Gauda Pallavi. I even composed music for the same.

People praise your abhinaya compositions as being phenomenal. Your comments.
My favourite abhinaya items are in Shringara rasa and Karuna rasa. I have also composed for many Oriya songs. I give lot of concentration to the meaning of the given songs, get the correct meaning and compose accordingly; it then comes out as natural as it is scripted.