Samsmaranam 2009  
- Kirti Dahale, Mumbai 
Photos: Dipak Mudgal 

 May 7, 2009 

Every year but at different locations which have the presence of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's disciples, the 'Samsmaranam' festival is held to celebrate the rich memories that surround the legendary dancer and guru. 

Although Srjan was instrumental in organizing the two-day festival this year, the anniversary actually belonged to all the disciples, well-wishers and friends of Guruji as a special day, in memoriam. Conceived as an emotive and participatory event by Guruji's son and disciple, Ratikant Mohapatra, 'Samsmaranam' was held this year in Delhi at the beautiful and evocative surroundings of the Meghdoot Auditorium in collaboration with Sangeet Natak Akademi.  

The festival was inaugurated by Dr. Subas Pani, Member Secretary, Planning Commission, Govt. of India and Jayant Kastuar, Secretary, Sangeet Natak Akademi. The program opened with the invocation "Gurur bramha gurur Vishnu…" danced by Kumkum Lal.  When the dancer presented a floral offering to Guruji's photograph, the audience was deeply moved by this soulful and emotive moment, and brought back endearing memories to many present there. Kumkum Lal followed this with a polished rendition of an Ashtapadi from Geeta Govinda, "Kuru yadu nandana" which was a favourite of Guruji. 

The next item was Guru Ratikant Mohapatra's choreography of a pallavi in raga Charukeshi set to the 9-matra and the music was composed by Rabi Shankar Pradhan. In spite of the complex and difficult tala structure, Ratikant's choreography moved fluently, the expressiveness of the movements in perfect harmony with the exactitude of the tala progression. Rajashri Praharaj once again demonstrated her outstanding talent and grace in bringing out the precision and beauty of this lasya filled item. This young dancer has made remarkable strides in the last few years and is certainly an artiste to look out for in the future. 

This was followed by the immensely popular Oriya abhinaya "Ahe nila saila" (based on the poem by the illustrious poet-devotee, Salabega). Ipsita Behoora did full justice to the deeply devotional colour of the composition: her obvious energy and vitality on the stage surprisingly meshed the devotional aspect with appropriate execution. This is a well known choreography of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with music by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra set to the 14 beat Jati tala in raga Arabi. The next item "Brajaku chora asichhi," was yet another endearing Oriya abhinaya performed by Sikata Das. This composition by Guruji is redolent of the vatsalya rasa - the appealing playfulness of the child Krishna and the timeless maternal instincts of his mother Yasoda. Sikata Das brought out this particular aspect beautifully; the rich emotiveness of the item was conveyed to the audience in a very easy and natural way and highlighted the deeply moving ambience of the story. This choreography of Guruji, had music by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra, in raga Ananda Bhairavi and tala Jati. The subsequent item "Krushna Tandava" was performed by duo Samir Kumar Behera and Panchanana Bhuyan. They succeeded in bringing out the power and vigour of this unusual composition by Guruji. The musical composition by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra in raga Aravi set to Ekatali, lifted the subject to epic proportion and the dancers who were more than adequate in presenting this item with the vitality that is an attractive asset of the male dancer.   

Next on stage was Sujata Mohapatra, a leading soloist of Odissi dance who rendered a new choreography by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, titled "Varsha" and set to music by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi. A powerful composition which dwells on the disastrous consequences of too much rain or too little, the choreography gave ample scope to the dancer to showcase her enviable skills as a complete artiste. The nritta aspect was flawlessly executed by Sujata as was expected of her: however, towards the end of the performance, the abhinaya aspect of the heart rending tragic denouement in the story, seemed to be slightly diluted, especially in view of the heightened emotion that the composition demanded.   

The concluding item of the first day "Varsha" seemed, in a magical way to actually herald thunder showers at the beginning of the second day's programme. The brisk showers however failed to dampen the spirits of the audience.  This evening's program was inaugurated by Kapila Vatsayan, Member of Parliament and Chairperson of Asia Project, IIC. Sonal Mansingh's performance added richly to this emotive ambience. As one of the senior most disciples of Guruji, Sonal Mansingh's rendition of her own composition 'Devi Stutee,' at once powerful and filled with grace, showed why she occupies a stellar position in the firmament among the Indian classical dancers.  

Yet another senior disciple of Guruji, the celebrated Madhavi Mudgal lit up the stage with an immaculate performance of the 'Hamsadhwani Pallavi.' Also immaculate was her stage presence and her delicate artistry showed yet again, her mastery of the difficult art of Odissi dance.  Hamsadhwani Pallavi is one of the earliest compositions of Guruji and music was set by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra. Next came the turn of Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, son and disciple of Guru Kelucharan, dancing to his own composition "Sri Ramachandra krupalu bhajamana." Ratikant demonstrated the full extent of guruji's unique style and flair for innovation. Especially appealing was the sanchari bhava in the detailed composition of Sita Vivaha and Ratikant's obvious strength in texturing the rhythm compositions. A distinct feature was the quick change over from one character to another; this was seamlessly done and elicited warm applause. Music by Pradip Kumar Das was set to ragamalika. This was followed by a pleasing performance by Sharon Lowen. A senior disciple of Guruji, Sharon gave a nuanced performance of "Dhira samire yamuna teere," an Ashtapadi from Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda. Her devotion to Odissi, her experience and maturity and the sinuous grace of movement, all combined to create a compelling stage presence. The choreography by Guru Kelucharan to music by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra was in raga Mohana set to adi tala.  

The concluding item of the 'Samsmaranam' festival turned out to be the grand finale presentation. Titled 'Bhaja Govindam' from Adiguru Shankaracharya's composition, the abstract philosophical subject has been choreographed to an intricate and tightly woven composition by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra. This was an excellent performance by the disciplined dancers of Srjan who handled this complex subject with absolute felicity of synchronisation and a pleasing grasp of the intricacies of the choreography. The continuous applause was well deserved. The music composed by Lakshmikant Palit was of noticeable good quality.   

The two day festival was enriched by live music led by quality musicians from Orissa and Delhi. Mention must be made of outstanding mardala work by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra and singing of admirable quality by the very young singer from Orissa, Rupak Kumar Parida. Jaydev Das showed his expertise and long experience in handling the lights. The two day festival was compered entirely by the celebrated Sadhana Srivastav, whose fluent use of English language, precise introductions and crispness of delivery added lustre to the 'Samsmaranam' festival. 

Kirti Dahale is a software and hardware engineer, and also a practitioner of Kathak dance.