Portraying women empowerment
- Vijay Shanker
e-mail: vijaydance@gmail.com

April 24, 2017

Every year on the occasion of International Women's Day (March 8), accomplished Odissi exponent Jhelum Paranjape religiously presents a performance portraying women emancipation and empowerment, with little changes in the thematic content, pertaining to the characters and characterizations.

This time Jhelum has been more liberal towards her students, as the major part of the performance was by the students, some of them teachers and professional performers in their own right. Jhelum says, "I deliberately wanted them to perform more, otherwise it would seem that I am stealing the limelight always. Moreover, this is an opportunity for them to perform and gain more confidence, which is essential, if you want to become a professional performer."

Organized by Mumbai's Bandra Residents Association at the Carter Road promenade open air amphitheatre and presented by Smitalay, the performance was well attended as some were witnessing an Odissi performance for the first time. The program commenced with invocations to Lord Jagannath through Manglacharan and the ashtapadi "Jaya Jaya Deva Hare" incorporating three avatars of Lord Vishnu and the episodes like Kaliya Mardana and Rama Avatara being depicted, a composition by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with music by Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi. It was a fine start to the program.

Male dancers in Kalavati Pallavi

Female dancers in Kalavati Pallavi

Jhelum Paranjape

Devi attacks Mahishasura

Pallavi is similar to the Jatiswaram in Bharatanatyam and forms a fine synthesis of music, melody and rhythm. In the Shankarabharanam Pallavi the dancers start in a slow tempo and gradually the speed increases reaching a crescendo of music and movements. It was a fine spectacle of the typical characteristic movements in the Odissi style, exhibiting varied tribhangis. This was performed by six female and one male dancer and music was by Pandit Bhubaneswar Misra. The Kalavati Pallavi was also performed by the dancers.

In the abhinaya section, the powerful female characters presented were Draupadi, Durga, Radha and Janabai. Janabai hails from the lower middle class family of Maharashtra but her ardent devotion to Lord Vitthala pays off and her devotion is ultimately recognized by everyone. "Naam Vithoba gyani" was performed by Jhelum Paranjape with lot of involvement and devotion, incorporating episodes like Gajendra Moksham, Draupadi Vastraharanam, Kaliya Mardana and Govardhana. The choreography was also by Jhelum and the vocal support was rendered by Datta Mistry.

"Nachete range shri Hari" wherein the lord dances with joy and happiness was well performed by the dancers. The leading dancers were Ankur Balal, Rupali Kadam, and Deepali. The program was enriching but lengthy, with fine vocal support by Jatin Sahu, mardala by Rohan Dahale, flute by Vijay Tambe, violin by R. Das from Bhubaneshwar and sitar by Aparna Deodhar.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.