Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena (1941 - 2016)
March 27, 2016
Born on August 15, 1941 in Udambar village near Remuna in Balasore district of Odisha, Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena had his initial training in dance and music at the age of 11 from a local teacher. After working with a touring theatre troupe as a child artiste for four years, he joined the Janata Ranga Manch at Cuttack as a dancer.
He was later trained in Odissi under the guidance of Guru Raghunath Dutta, Guru Mayadhar Raut and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra at Kala Vikash Kendra (KVK), Cuttack. He also obtained a bachelor’s degree in Kathak from the KVK. During his six years of stint with the Kendra as a faculty member, Guru Jena was guided by luminaries like Kali Charan Patnaik, Babulal Doshi, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pankaj Charan Das, Deba Prasad Das, Balakrushna Dash, Dhirendra Nath Patnaik and Bhubaneswar Mishra, to pursue the profession as a dancer.
A highly respected teacher, Ramani Ranjan Jena has taught Odissi dance at various institutions including the Odissi Research Centre in Bhubaneswar, Kalakshetra in Chennai, Kala Vikash Kendra in Cuttack, Nrityagram near Bangalore, and the Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi. For some time, he also taught at Osaka in Japan. At his own institution, the Kamala Kala Peetha in Cuttack, Jena has trained a number of dancers of repute.
In 1973, Guru Jena joined Rukmini Devi Arundale’s Kalakshetra as an Odissi dance teacher. During his four years of service, he trained several students from India and abroad besides conducting workshops in France, Italy and Greece. Returning to his home state, he started his dance school Kamala Kala Peetha at Cuttack in 1983 and taught at the Odissi Research Centre, Bhubaneswar later for three years.
In 1989, Jena shifted his base to the national capital of New Delhi where he finally settled down. Commencing his career as an Odissi dance teacher at the Jagannath Mandir, he later joined the Triveni Kala Sangam to train aspiring artistes. He was also invited twice as a visiting faculty member at late Protima Bedi’s Nrityagram dance village near Bangalore. He has trained Odissi dancers in Japan, Brazil, France, Mexico, Russia, Sweden and Brazil besides a number of students in India including his son Rashmi Ranjan Jena and daughter-in-law. Malavika Sarukkai also learnt Odissi from Guru Jena.
Guru Jena has choreographed a number of dance dramas – Prema Sudhanidhi (1962), Ritusamhara (1963), Rituraj (1964) and Kaluri Benta (1965) – to name a few. He was the dance director for five Oriya films – Kanakalata, Adina Megha, Sansara, Sesa Sravana and Chhamana Athaguntha.
Ramani Ranjan Jena received Fellowships from the Ministry of Human Resources for his research on ‘Natraj in Odissi style’ and ‘Similarities and differences in Chhau and Odissi dance styles.’ He has been bestowed several honours for his work including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2001, Orissa Sahitya Akademi Award in 2009, the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award in 2008, and the Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1987.
I am deeply shocked to know the sudden demise of my beloved elder brother Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena (Ramani bhai). I had spent quality time with Ramani bhai in my childhood. While I was in 4th standard, he used to take me to my school in Cuttack - Baba Sagadas Vidyapeetha - and bring me back home. He was one of such performing artistes, who played a vital role in popularizing male Odissi dancing in early 70s.
Ramani bhai, you will always be remembered with respect and pride for your sincere commitments and contribution to Odissi dance. And you will always stay dear to our hearts.
My deepest condolences to his family. May God bring them courage to withstand this difficult times. May his soul rest in peace....
- Ratikant Mohapatra
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