Delightful Odissi by Sujata Mohapatra
- Shveta Arora
Photos: Anoop Arora

July 8, 2016

On one hot summer evening in Delhi, dance lovers enjoyed the revitalizing coolness of Odissi. The Mohinder Dhillon Music Foundation organized a solo performance by Sujata Mohapatra to honour her with ‘Margaret Dhillon Annual Spirit of India Award’ for her service to classical dance, at the IIC. Sujata is the disciple and daughter-in-law of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, whose style of dance she teaches and strictly adheres to.
She began her performance with a Mangalacharan, an obeisance to Lord Jagannath. The next piece was an ode to Lord Rama, who has a blue complexion. His chest bears the mark of Srivatsa. He is lotus-eyed and wears a pitambar; he is the man who broke the bow of Lord Shiva. The composition was in raga Megh and Kedar, tala chaturasa ektali. The choreography was by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, and music by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi. Sujata started the piece with the shloka ‘Shantakaram bhujaga shayanam padmanabham suresham’. The interpretive dance was well executed and the stances imbued with a lot of poise.

Pallavi or blossoming is a piece of pure dance. The pallavi in raga Bageshwari, tala ektali, had the title Yugmadwanda, and was like a duet between dance and music. Using mnemonic syllables, it was like a question and answer between the instrument, music, vocalist and the dancer. Sujata’s excellent footwork and hastas showed her expertise. The choreography was by Kelucharan Mohapatra and music by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi.

The ashtapadi “Sakhi he” from Geeta Govinda, in raag Pahadi, tala jati was again a choreography by Kelubabu with music by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra. Radha implores her sakhi to go and get Krishna, reminiscing about her first meeting with him. She thinks about the beauty of the kunj or the bower where they met, and adorns herself to meet Krishna. As she moves in the night, she removes her anklets so that nobody can hear her passing. She blows the light out so that she is not seen by anybody, removes the thorn from her foot, and is constantly struck by the arrows of Kamadeva. Sujata’s subtle abhinaya to depict the meeting, and then the pining of Radha was brilliant.

Jatayu Moksha featured excerpts taken from Odiya Ramayana and is inspired by folk theatre. The story has been retained from the original work. Lakshman guards the hut in which Rama and Sita are staying during their exile in the forest. The couple are having a romantic time, stringing the flowers and admiring the elephants and birds. Suddenly, a golden deer appears. Sita tries to catch it, feeds it and plays with it, and then it disappears. Rama goes after it despite Lakshman’s warnings, and then a scared Sita sends Lakshman to look for Rama. Ravana appears as a sage, and lures her out of the Lakshman rekha on the pretext of asking for alms. Jatayu comes to her help, fights Ravana with valour, and is finally slain by Ravana. Rama, who finds Jatayu in the forests, alleviates his pain, and then performs the last rites for him.

The original choreography was meant for a group dance, with each character being played by a different dancer. But gradually, Sujata got into the skin of each character and wowed the audience with her display of myriad emotions. She plays Sita romancing and playing in the forests, and then Lakshman, with his always doubtful attitude. She could portray the helplessness of the character of Lakshman, and at the same time, his strength when he draws the Lakshman rekha. Ravana came across as a shrewd one. Jatayu in valour during the fight, and his agony on being injured, was enacted in a touching manner. Sujata said that she had performed the piece as a solo in Puri in front of Lord Jagannath, with Guruji as the chief guest, so she felt it was blessed. Her flawless abhinaya captured the admiration of the audience. The music also had different elements for each character.
The accompanists were Ramesh Chandra Das on violin, Deepak Kumar on vocals, Eklavya on mardala, Soumya Ranjan Joshi on flute, and evocative lighting by Jayadev enhanced the presentation.
Shveta Arora is a blogger based in Delhi. She writes about cultural events in the capital.