Award turns 16!
September 15, 2010
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra turned 16 last week. The Award instituted in his memory, that is! His vast circle of family and friends, shishyas and sarthis, all epic-centered in his son Ratikant babu (for those south of the Vindhyas and west of the Bhubaneswar-Bengal belt, the word babu means someone older or younger, called with respectful affection. It means Dear Sir, so though of different ages, it applies to Kelubabu and Ratibabu). Ratikant babu's efforts to propitiate his father's memory, through an honour that means a lot in the field of Orissi performing arts, has come to symbolize excellence and expertise.
Poets have sung peans to sweet sixteen, although kids start earlier nowadays! For this Award to turn 16 means conviction, consistency and concurrence. Given each year to coincide appropriately with Teacher's Day (5th Sept), this honour goes to two or more connected with Oriya music, dance, theatre and cinema. This year too was no exception and we had two senior and deserving candidates receiving the Award for music (Prof. Mohini Mohan Patnaik) and costumes/aharya (Bhagirathi Das).
Day One opens to a grandly decorated Rabindra Mandap, looking like a wedding hall, with lights and all. Ratikant & Co. have a flair for making ordinary arrivals ceremonial (!), to make each guest feel very special like a VIP. I'm told Bhubaneswar denizens suffer from being-in-the-first-row complex culture. We humbly try to take to the 2nd row (critics in Delhi, Bangalore, Madras and most metros always take to the 2nd row as it affords a vantage point to see all in action, as there is much socialising and ji-huzoori going on in the first row, without having to get close or involved in any. A critic must keep neutral distance and not be taken to be a PR agent.). In any case, how many VIPs can the 10 centre first row seats accommodate?
Next day features Malavika Sarukkai, whose dance has grown and become resplendent with many a fleeting moods. Malavika Sarukkai is looking spiffier and dancing younger! She has a new found energy, even if the strain of doing so is showing on her but there was a new spark in her dance. She tried to make the evening special and succeeded in investing a lot of energy in her dance, which always has been known for its technique, but now, her face is busý too, often combining the emotive range of a Shobana (the actress), with the spontaneity of a Valli (the diva).
Shubha Mudgal has grown as an artiste and her voice remains distinctly her own, deep, bold and strong. She is serenely involved with her music and remains steadfast in her muse. She sang without minding the glare of all hall lights left on by a dysfuntional lightsman! It was very disturbing to sit with all hall lights on for the audience too. Some problem with the control board led to this, it seems, though it was not the case on the first day when Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma played.
Bhubaneswar audience is extremely involved in such events. The hall was overflowing and the many admirers and fans clamoured to get darshan of the stars that descended on the city. Most members touched feet and paid genuine regards. The local talents were in full attendance. It was good to see a smattering of gurus, stars, students, media and the men and women who make the Oriyan society.
Last day, the grand spectacle of music and dance, unfolds. For some time now, I've been trying to find and look for a good Orissi ensemble work. Kiran Segal in Delhi was making some efforts but doesn't have a big group. Ratikant babu has succeeded to fill this slot now, and ably so. The 45 minute production Tantra is an amazing composition, even if a bit pedestrian; with Tantric priest cameos and all. Classical Indian dance delights in art of suggestions; to make real depictions robs it of its surprise. The opening sequence was magical, effective and evocative, almost akin to Uday Shankar's Labour and Machinery sequence. The silver outline of black costumes glows in neon blue strobe light. The audience claps in delight! The entire production needs a little pruning and enhancements (the three Devis/Shaktis look sweetly under-aged and undernourished). Sujata Mohapatra is seen very briefly, although her over-full hair attachments are everywhere! After the opening sequence, all group dances look similar. Ratikant babu would do well to use 2 or 4 (even 6 or 8) of the dancers, but not all the dancers in the group and in all the sequences. That would provide relief to the artists and the audience besides a refreshing change of scene on stage. Ratikant babu invests energy and spectacle in this work and this is a good item for any occasion, any festival, especially for bigger spaces like Khajuraho, Konark or even abroad. Excellent music by Laxmikant Palit and superb lights by Jayadeva (not of Geeta Govinda fame!) add to its beauty. Ratikant babu does not participate on stage, though the role of priest would sit very well on him. Aditya Mahapatra's commentary was like that of Discovery Channel; deep, mellifluous and perfect.
Orissa dancer-researcher Kumkum Mohanty and visiting the home of Adiguru
Pankaj Charan Das, the fountainhead of Orissi, and talking to younger Gurus
and teachers Gajendra Panda, Sarat babu and Aruna Mohanty, is invigorating.
A day trip to see the new Natya Mandap, built painstakingly by Guru Gangadhar
Pradhan, a kilometer before the real Konark, is an eye opener. Son Shibu
is trying to brand and market it with modern means, although the reputation
of both the Guru and the new Natya Mandap festival, now in its 25th year,
is well established.
Odisha is happening and how! Its new Secretary for Culture and Tourism is a gentleman IAS, very informed and aware, named after a musical instrument 'Sarangi'. Its Culture Minister wears the most elegant shirts and its Chief Minister, Naveen babu is the epitome of good taste and manners. He came quietly, made no long speeches and left as quietly. In the end, all pay homage to the grand master of Orissi, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Jai Jagannanath!
Ashish Mohan Khokar travels all over India and brings to note dancers of merit, through his writings, columns and yearbook, attendance. India's reputed and widely-read dance critic, his words help dancers and audiences understand and appreciate the art of dance and the actual performance, better. For detailed bio see www.attendance-india.com and www.dancearchivesofindia.com