Poetic moments 
Text & pics: Ranjana Dave 
e-mail: ranjana.dave@gmail.com 

December 25, 2008 
It is 6pm. The sun has disappeared a long time ago. Jayadeva Utsav at Habitat World is still a few traffic jams away. I never appreciated Mumbai's sardine tin local trains till I met Delhi's extortionist auto-rickshaw drivers. And its reputation as an unsafe city doesn’t make one feel any better. 

When I reached Stein Auditorium around 6.35 pm, what caught my eye was – people, early, waiting to be allowed in. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I have never seen people queue up early in Mumbai for dance events, even though traveling is a lot easier. When the ushers let us in, the second thing that struck me as unique was the corner where two full boards of artist caricatures stared me in the face. They were nice to some people and took naughty potshots at others. Probably I'm only over-reacting to the delights Delhi has to offer, but well, Shilpi Ashok has really done a great job there! Sadly, one of the two boards had been removed the next day, when I went to take a photograph of them. 

Presented by Odissi Akademi under the guidance of Kavita Dwivedi, Jayadeva Utsav was held over two days, November 3-4, 2008. Now in its sixth year, the festival instituted the Jayadeva Samman award this time. A mark of respect to the epic poet, it was conferred on Raghunath Panigrahi for his immense contribution to Odissi music. It comprised of a cash prize, a citation and a plaque. A national seminar accompanied the festival, where papers on the many functions and roles of the Gitagovinda were presented. Some papers were also published in the festival souvenir. 

The first evening began with the presence of politicians and other equally distinguished people who waxed eloquent about Jayadeva. But theory turned into practice when Raghunath Panigrahi re-inaugurated the proceedings with his singing. Clad in a startling yellow-green kurta, his slight stature belied the powerful voice that lay within. His son Partharasarathi Panigrahi also took to the stage for one piece. 

Raghunath Panigrahi
Gopika Varma
Full of secret smiles, Mohiniattam dancer Gopika Varma began the dance segment of the Utsav with the well-loved Chandana charchita, continuing with the equally popular Dheere Sameere. Her white and gold costume was given just a hint of colour by the red blouse; her soft and deep movements were offset by the pulsating edakka in a similar manner. She charmed with expressive eyes that did much of the talking. 

Prathibha Prahlad came next with three pieces. Mugdhe madhumathanam was full of verve, complemented by the shocking pink costume. She also danced to Pasyati disi disi and Kuru yadu nandana. Vocalist P Rama had a voice that was well-grounded and soothing in an earthy manner. 

Pratibha Prahlad
Nrityagram - Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy
(file photo)
Today, when the Gitagovinda has been extensively choreographed, interpreted and reinterpreted, the need of the hour is a re-exploration of choreography to find interpretations that are not just representative of a long gone past, but are ones that are imbued with a sense of immediacy. Nrityagram's Dheere Sameere could have been the story of any two love-struck girls. Dressed in flamboyant green, Bijayini Satpathy with her infectious smile was a compelling juxtaposition to Surupa Sen's understated mischief and poise. They were constantly picture-perfect – each moment was carefully chalked out and executed. Sen and Satpathy ended the first day’s proceedings with a short Kisalaya shayana, where the lighting played an important role in setting the mood of the piece.  

The second day literally started on a 'different note,' with Pt. LK Pandit of the Gwalior gharana rendering some ashtapadis in the khayal style. This style of ashtapadi singing was the brainchild of Pt. Visnu Pandit, a Sanskrit scholar of the early 19th century. With the help of two Gwalior gharana musicians of his time, these ashtapadis began to be sung as kirtans. 

L K Pandit
Kiran Segal
Attired in white and red, Kiran Segal was the second Odissi dancer to perform at the event. She chose to present Nindati chandanam and Yahi Madhava. While her abhinaya had some compelling moments, occasionally, she seemed disoriented. Kuchipudi dancer Sailaja went next. Her long plait swinging from side to side, she was extremely enthusiastic - Radhika tava virahe Keshava was full of energetic movement – leaps, claps, the works; though it was a tad overdone at times. 
Ratikant Mohapatra put together a slickly edited segment for his troupe from Srjan. Six dancers – Rajashri Praharaj, Manosmita Panda, Rachana Rimjhim, Swagatika Sahani, Swagatika Mohapatra and Rajnita Banerjee - began with Vedanu dharate, the Dasavatara in a tiny capsule. Breaking the Gitagovinda pattern of the event, Panda and Praharaj then presented Megh Pallavi. This continued with a story woven out of three ashtapadis – Lalita lavanga, Rase harim iha and Radha vadana, that depicted a philandering Krishna’s slow but sure return to his lover Radha. Colour played a prominent role – from sheer blue to bright yellow, they were all there. The dancers enjoyed themselves, while making a competent presentation. Jayadev Das added depth with clever lighting, using prominent overtones of green and blue. The music was interestingly arranged; but the acoustics were somewhat overwhelming in parts - the female vocal track was too shrill to be heard comfortably at times. 

In Mumbai, there may be a fairly vexing 10pm ban on loudspeakers. But the trains run until much later! The first day of the Utsav, I was stranded without a ride home...not a very nice feeling. Finding one was so tiring, I almost decided not to come back for the second day. I'm thankful I did, since Jayadeva Utsav was a very intriguing experience. It will be even more interesting to see what direction the festival takes in its trajectory of evolution.