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Pragyadyuti presented 'Sayam-Dhwani' at Kolkata
- Nita Vidyarthi
Photos courtesy: Pragyadyuti

July 8, 2018

Shayomita Dasgupta
Pragyadyuti, an Odissi and Creative Dance Centre spearheaded by the senior Odissi dancer Shayomita Dasgupta presented 'Sayam Dhwani,' an evening of Odissi dance at the Satyajit Ray auditorium, Rabindranath Tagore Centre, ICCR, Kolkata. Shayomita had her early training in Kathak and Manipuri and subsequently trained in Odissi under Guru Garima Hazarika in the early nineties. Her acquaintance with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in 1995 was a turning point in her life and career and she participated in a number of important roles along with the maestro. She has performed in prestigious festivals in India and at different venues abroad and is now closely associated with Guru Ratikant Mohapatra's Srjan. Her institution Pragyadyuti in Kolkata has mounted some notable productions like Journey, Harmony, Rangeen Shurer Murchana and Nrityer Tale Tale to name a few.

After offering of flowers to Lord Jagannath by the esteemed guests and other dancers present in the evening, the performance commenced with the ritualistic Mangalacharan "Ganesh Vandana" composed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with Pt Bhubaneswar Mishra's music, set to raga Puriya Dhanasree, ektali, by the juniors of the institution. The assorted fare followed the course of presenting pure dance with Batu nritya where the dancers gave a good account of their training, etching a series of neat sculpturesque poses representing musicians playing different instruments. The dance composition by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in raga Bhopali, ektali, began in slow tempo and gradually gained pace through a series of intricate charis, bhangis and karanas. The group choreography with pleasing formations was by Shayomita.

Pallavi is one of the most attractive and intricate pure dance items in an Odissi recital and the juniors drew attention by presenting Vasant Pallavi set to ektali, a choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with composer Pt Bhubaneswar Mishra. The dancers put up a steady performance with the swara passages of the raga. A break from the nritta items was a rewarding abhinaya "Dehogo Sakhi" in a lilting traditional Oriya tune in taal khemta by Shayomita. The piece from "Banamali Padavali" was taken by Gour Krishna Pattanaik in the year 1934 and is recited every year in the Nanda Utsav. With Guru Ratikant's imaginative dance choreography, the charming dancer brought out the beauty of the lyrics evoking enthusiastic applause in the quick repetitive "Radhamadhava chali." In quick succession came another Pallavi set to raga Mohana, taal triputa. The original dance composition set to Pt Bhubaneswar Mishra's music was by Kelubabu but Shayomita used her experience and imagination to re-choreograph the piece for the group with some interesting formations of circular patterns, holding hands and finally dispersing in perfect coordination. It was heartwarming to observe how a classical composition can be extended with a bit of artistic sensibility by a sophisticated dancer who is also an efficient teacher.

It takes courage to present the ashtapadi "Kuru Yadu Nandana" immortalized by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and presented by celebrated virtuosos like Sonal Mansingh. Shayomita with her good stage presence took up the challenge and gave an involved performance soaked in appealing emotions. Especially memorable was the delicate quivering of the hands in "Tarena karena payodharey." However the approach to shringar in the sandalwood paste grinding gestures missed the subtle sensibilities of the verses at times. The piece in raga Misra Kafi set to taal jati was a masterpiece of choreography by Kelubabu with music by Pt Bhubaneswar Mishra.

Pragyadyuti dancers

Chudamani Pradan

The twenty minute dance-drama abhinaya piece "Chudamani Pradan" is another cult composition based on an episode from the Ramayana where the monkey god Hanuman visits Sita held captive in the Ashoka Vatika by Ravana in Srilanka. The piece is composed in Ragamalika, Talamalika with choreography by Kelubabu set to Pt Raghunath Panigrahi's music. The introduction, prior to the performance by Shayomita as Sita and Subikash Mukherjee, another senior established dancer, as Hanuman, acquainted the audience with the stalwarts who had played the characters, including their teacher for this piece, Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, who had played the role of Hanuman, some forty years back and was present in the front row of the auditorium. The story was about Hanuman's visit to Ashoka Vatika to help rescue Sita. Hanuman carries Lord Rama's ring as an identification to assure Sita and win her trust. Sita when finally reassured of Hanuman's identity, gives her diadem, the "Chudamani" to Hanuman, to take back to Rama to prove that she is alive. Even though both the dancers admitted to feeling nervous of performing this classical piece under the watchful eyes of their guru, the challenging piece - both in terms of abhinaya and technique - was successfully communicated to the audience. Shayomita was able to establish herself as a distressed, anxious and helpless Sita showing fine grace and poise in her nritta and abhinaya. With his energetic nritta and the ability to cover the stage, Subikash depicted the character of Hanuman in movements and mood with a reasonable understanding of the role in the epic. His dancing was a joy to watch. Watching this piece was undoubtedly an enjoyable experience.

The unnecessary use of smoke, fogging the stage facilitated by the light dispersion to create an illusionary effect and thereby tarnishing the visibility of the expressions and movements of the dancers has become a disturbing practice, hampering the visual delight of the presentation. It would have been wiser on the part of the organizers to be prudent and avoid an elaborate felicitation schedule of a long line of guests, fellow dancers and friends, going beyond time after a lengthy program and trying the patience of the audience.

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.