Festival controversy: Injustice to the Deba Prasad Gharana
All the three Gurus are considered to be the three stands of the Odissi tripod. Each Guru (Pankaj Charan Das, Kelucharan Mohapatra and Deba Prasad Das) contributed equally to the upliftment of the dance form. Today dancers are reaping the results of what the trinity sowed. These three Gurus spent their lifetime revitalizing and establishing Odissi, pulling it out of the wilderness and bringing it to limelight.
But this became a controversy in the recently concluded Mukteswara Dance Festival held at Bhubaneswar from 14th to 16th of January 2009. In this festival, Guru Kelucharan and Guru Pankaj Charan's gharanas were showcased whereas no one from the Deba Prasad Vani was selected in this internationally acclaimed dance festival. Sensing foul play, Gajendra Panda, a Guru and disciple of Deba Prasad Das, brought this matter to the notice of the tourism director of Orissa, Sri Rabi Narayan Nanda, as the Department of Tourism and Culture was the organizer of the dance festival this year. When contacted by Panda, Sri Nanda flared up and retorted saying he had no idea as to who Guru Deba Prasad Das was and that he had no knowledge of any existing styles of Odissi. He said that his department tries to give fair chance to dancers irrespective of the style they practise. Saying thus, he threatened Panda of dire consequences and ousted him from his office.
This attitude of no less than the Director of the Department of Tourism and Culture has caused severe disappointment amongst disciples of Deba Prasad Das and also the Odissi fraternity. It is observed that in most of the dance festivals, Deba Prasad's style very often goes unnoticed.
During the course of the festival, it is learnt that many of the international tourists present had expressed their disappointment that they had no opportunity to see any dancer representing the Deba Prasad Gharana.
It is a matter of great concern and ridicule that an officer of Sri Nanda's standing could bring himself down so much as to publicly display his ignorance of such a great personage and his form of Odissi dance. Dancers of Odissi style at least regret such ignorance of a highly placed culture administrator of the state.