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Guru Durga Charan Ranbir: A successful journey
- Rahul Acharya, Bhubaneswar
e-mail: rahul_acharya@rediffmail.com


May 14, 2006

Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, acclaimed world wide for his contributions to the field of Odissi dance and more appropriately to the unique gharana (style) of his guru, late Dr Deba Prasad Das, has been the most prominent Nrutyacharya (teacher of dance) of the second generation of Odissi dancers, the first generation comprising of the holy trinity. After the demise of the holy trinity, namely Adi Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Guru Deba Prasad Das, the dance form is being spearheaded by a number of gurus and dancers, of which the most prominent are Guru Durga Charan Ranbir and Guru Gangadhar Pradhan. Guru Ranbir has been able to establish himself as the icon of the Deba Prasad Gharana and his (Deba Prasad's) able protégé. Guruji has trained a galaxy of dancers who are furthering his work throughout the world. Many of his disciples have carved a niche for themselves in the field and are prominent figures in the dance world. Guruji has been one of the pioneers to have made Odissi known in a number of countries. In recognition of his dedicated service to the field of Odissi, spanning a period of more than four decades, Guruji has been conferred with the prestigious Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for the year 2005. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Guruji, his struggle and achievements.
Guru Durga Charan Ranbir receives the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from the President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
In the middle is Mr. Ram Niwas Mirdha, the Chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi


How does it feel to have been conferred with the prestigious Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award?
I feel elated. All these years I have been striving to bring my Guru's (Late Deba Prasad Das) style to prominence and finally God has answered my prayer. This style is being showcased at major cities around the world. This award is recognition not only for me but of the Deba Prasad Gharana as well.

How did it feel when you first heard the news?
This happened when I was out of station. I was in Mumbai to perform for the Haridas Sangeet Sammelan organized by Kal-Ke-Kalakar, Mumbai. The news was conveyed to me when I was getting ready for the evening performance. I was so overwhelmed, I looked up towards the sky in gratitude that the Lord had finally answered my prayers.

Do you think that the award came a bit late, keeping in view your contributions to Odissi that were recognized quite early and you shot into prominence quite early in life?
No. A couple of times, even I have heard rumours that I had been nominated for the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. But I don't believe in rumours. I got nominated when the academy thought I was eligible. This was done only when the Government recognized that this unique Gharana was also important.

Whom would you acknowledge for your achievement?
God comes first. Hard work never goes unnoticed and without results. My Guru had taken great pains to train me and had he been alive, he would have been the happiest person on earth to see his style gain prominence. After his sudden demise, I was left to fend for myself and since then have undertaken great pains to bring Deba Prasad and his Gharana to limelight.

Now that you have been conferred with this prestigious award, what are your future plans?
Life comes to an end only when death traverses its path. As long as life exists, work continues. I believe there is a lot more to be done. This is just a phase. I still have miles to go before I have the eternal rest. A lot more has to be done for this unique Gharana to highlight it further.

Tell us something about your highly acclaimed choreographies?
I choreograph items keeping in view a lot of parameters. I make it a point to refer to the scriptures and never move out of the norms prescribed therein. I try to keep the classicism intact. My choreographies strictly adhere to the norms codified by my Guru. I emphasize on traditional mudras (hand gestures) and make it a point to use it extensively. References of scholars and research into the Orissan temple murals depicting dance, are a vital part of my choreographies.

Is your art ensured safety in the hands of your disciples? How convinced are you that they will carry your work further?
I have trained a galaxy of dancers. Some of the proficient ones include Sangeeta Dash, Rajashree Chintak Behera, Bharat Charan Giri, Leena Mohanty, Sonali Mohapatra, Rahul Acharya etc. All of them are prominent representatives of my style. I have taken great pains to shape their careers. I have donated them all I have. They should all be aware of the responsibilities on their shoulders. They should realize that they are the inheritors of a great legacy and have to devote themselves to protecting this rich tradition. Rest is God's will.

What is the future of Odissi dance?
Odissi was started as a temple ritual. It was meant for no mortal beings. It is strictly for the Gods. The late Gurus have strived hard to preserve this form with its pristine purity. I have done the same. One should be conscious that we are not dancing for audience applause or for commercial purposes; rather we are showcasing a uniquely divine tradition. Dancers need to work extremely hard and project it accordingly. In the present scenario dancers are plenty, but only a handful pursue it seriously. There is a dearth of students who continue their links with the Guru and carry on his legacy. With all these above lacunas I still foresee a bright future for Odissi. With the amount of popularity this form is enjoying today, the future is quite predictable.

What is your advice to upcoming dancers?
I would emphasize on perfection and Angasuddha (body perfection) in the dance techniques. I would suggest each one to undertake thorough research into the works they present. Remember "Practice makes a man perfect." There can never be a substitute to practice. The more one practices, the more perfect the dancer becomes.

In a function to mark the event at New Delhi, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi organized a week long festival in the capital where all the 30 awardees presented their works. Guruji also presented his major works in two performances; held at the Meghdoot Theatre, New Delhi and Indira Gandhi Kala Kendra, Noida, on the 22nd and 23rd March 2006 respectively. Here, he presented three of his disciples, the senior most and famed Sangeeta Dash, Debasish Pattnaik and Rahul Acharya. They showcased some of his fortes which included a Mangalacharan dedicated to Goddess Mahalakshmi, a new Sthayee set to Raga Bihagada, an Oriya abhinaya (Mohane Deli Chahin) and the remarkable Sooryashtakam.


Contact:
Durga Charan Ranbir
'Nrutyayan'
Plot # 866 (P), Chandimata Colony
Canal Road, Rasulgarh
Bhubaneswar 751003, India
Ph: (0674) - 2588571 / Mobile: 0-98611 44971