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Odissi Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena passes away
- Sunil Kothari

March 29, 2016

Photo: Avinash Pasricha

Odissi Guru Ramani Ranjan Jena, 75, passed away on March 26, 2016 after a protected illness.

Ramani Ranjan Jena was trained by many gurus in Odissi including Mayadhar Raut, Kelucharan Mahapatra and Raghunath Dutta at Kala Vikash Kendra in Cuttack where he obtained a Master's degree in Odissi. He was trained as a dancer and used to give several solo performances in the early sixties.

It was Y.G. Doraiswamy, who saw his performance and suggested that he should move to Chennai to perform Odissi and teach there to local Bharatanatyam dancers. Ramani Ranjan Jena taught privately and later on in 1977 he was engaged to teach Odissi at Kalakshetra where he taught for three years till 1980. During his stay in Chennai, he taught Kshama Rau, daughter of Gyanpith awardee Sivaram Karanth who revived Yakshagana dance form of Karnataka. Ramani Ranjan Jena also taught well known Bharatanatyam exponent Malavika Sarukkai. He used to perform duets with his students in Chennai and had performed duets with Malavika Sarukkai.

After 1980, Ramani Ranjan Jena moved to Cuttack and established Kamala Kala Pitha to train local young dancers and also dancers who came from abroad to study Odissi. One American dancer by name Madhulika came to Cuttack and took intensive training in Odissi under Ramani Ranjan Jena. He was very proud of her and Madhulika wanted to take him abroad on a tour of America and Canada. Later on, like other senior gurus who had migrated to New Delhi, Ramani Ranjan Jena also moved to New Delhi from Cuttack and taught Odissi at Triveni Kala Sangam.

By temperament, Ramani Ranjan Jena was quiet and very modest. He had received sound training under celebrated masters. During his study at Kala Vikash Kendra he was in close touch with Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. Ratikant, son of Kelubabu, recalls that when he was studying in a school in Cuttack, Ramani Ranjan Jena often used to drop him at the school. He also recalls that Ramani Ranjan was very polite and treated Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra with great respect.

From among his two sons, Rashmi Ranjan Jena received thorough training under him and showed promise as an up and coming dancer. The other son took to music. For his contribution to popularising Odissi he was honoured with Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2001.

Ramani Ranjan Jena was invited to choreograph group dances for the students of various schools participating in the Republic Day parade. He trained many students in Odissi till his health permitted him. He will be remembered for his contribution to Odissi when Odissi was gaining popularity.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. Among his several awards, he is honored with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC.

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