- Tapati Chowdurie
February 13, 2017
Dr. Sangita Gosain who is an Associate Professor in Utkal University of Culture and is a renowned scholar and vocalist was born into music and has always been associated with music. She has another prestigious feather in her cap. Recently she has been given the added responsibility of chairing the very important post of the Chief Executive of 'Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre' in Bhubaneswar - its name was Odissi Research Centre. At one point, this rechristened institution had a plethora of famous gurus in its faculty. Name an institution which can boast of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Mahadev Rout, Sangeet Sudhakar Balakrishna Das, Pt. Bhubaneswar Misra, Deepak Kumar Bose, Kumkum Mohanty and Durgacharan Ranbir in its rolls; not to be forgotten names were that of Guru Pankaj Charan Das and Guru Debaprasad Das.
It was unfortunate that Guru Debaprasad Das passed away way before his time. But luckily he has left a rich legacy. His exquisite choreographic works have been archived for future generations. Sangita Gosain was appointed as the Chief Executive of this august institution in July 2016, so this writer seized the chance of talking to her personally. She is not so new in the premises of the institution. She spoke at length on a variety of subjects of interest to her. From the many things she said I got to know about her intense passion for music. She spoke about her girlhood days and about her family. But her major worry is about her institute.
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre had been set up by Dr. Kumkum Mohanty, who got it started in 1985. Sangita Gosain has been associated with it for about three decades. When she first came into contact with the institution she was a professor of English in a morning college. Kumkum Mohanty had started the institution in the gurukul system of historical times. Responding to an advertisement in the newspaper that ten students in music and ten students in dance would be admitted on the basis of merit with a stipend of Rs. 750, she had applied because of her thirst to learn more. She had the hankering to learn under Balakrishna Das in Cuttack, but could not, because that was an advanced, intensive, in-house course. In Bhubaneswar, there was no substitute for Balakrishna Das. He was a great performer and pioneered to develop Odissi music. She also wanted to learn music from Pt Bhubaneswar Misra who taught there. Kumkum Mohanty had interviewed her. She wanted to leave a lucrative job and join a ten to five job for Rs. 750. Sangita's calculations were simple. Even if she were to offer Rs. 2000 a month to Pt. Bhubaneswar Misra, he would not be available to teach Sangita in her home. If she left her job and joined SRC, she could at least have the opportunity of learning under him. With that aim in mind she joined the institute in 1987. Besides, the Centre was going to follow guru-shishya parampara with its intensive advance courses.
For two years she travelled back and forth from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar every day. At the Sangeet Research Centre she learnt under Binapani Das and became a Sangeet Bhaskar from Prachin Kala Kendra for which she won a gold medal. She was thus well versed in Hindustani music as well as Odissi music. With her qualifications of being a top grade artist of All India Radio, and her rich background in music she got the job of a Reader in Utkal University of Culture. From then onwards her passion and profession walked hand in hand.
In Sangeet Research Centre, every alternate day there was some event or the other for which she had to stay to help and she was therefore asked to join. After an advertisement and interview, she joined as an Asst. Executive. She kept her 'surpeti tanpura' in a small room in low volume in Sangeet Research Centre and went through the rigour of practice, whenever she found a chance. Here she was anchoring too. She was absorbed in administration department and taught at will. To be a performer was her prime aim. From 1987 to 2012 she continued as the Asst Executive of Sangeet Research Centre, while at the same time she held the job of Reader in Utkal University of Culture. In July 2016 she was chosen as the Chief Executive of Odissi Research Centre renamed Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre. The post was not filled from 2003 after the retirement of Kumkum Mohanty. People were chosen from time to time, but no one continued.
All her siblings were singers or percussionists or instrumentalists. They were a family of artists. From morning one could hear music in their house. Their pet parrot couple sang popular film tunes too, which was recorded and aired for the sake of fun. About early childhood, she related a few anecdotes. In a cousin's wedding people found a mini crowd at a spot and discovered that Sangita held them spellbound with her incessant chatting and singing. Alternately she was called a chatterbox or long playing record.
She could learn faster than her sister Padmalaya Garabidu when she accompanied her to All India Radio for recording. So her voice had to be recorded. In subsequent visits she was asked to wait outside. Sangita who has lived up to her name is determined to bring back the lost glory of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre.
Tapati Chowdurie learnt dance for almost 10 years from Guru Gopinath in his dance institution Natana Niketan in Madras. For a brief period, she was with International Centre for Kathakali in New Delhi. Tapati has a Master's degree in English Literature and Bachelor's degree in Education. She has a regular column in The Statesman, where she writes on dance and music. She also writes for The Hindu and Sruti. Presently, she is a freelance writer.
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