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Unexpected Odissi bonuses

June 5, 2018

Considerable time has passed since one saw Jyoti Srivastava in a full- fledged solo Odissi performance, which is why her recital devoted purely to abhinaya, at SNA's Meghdoot III theatre for an event featuring one senior and one junior dancer, was pleasantly surprising! Always known for her abhinaya, her centre-piece of interpretation of the eight nayikas, all strung to Oriya lyrics, was a welcome change from the routine recitals. After the Mangalacharan with Krishna Stuti, came the Ashta-nayikas, the lyrics comprising music by Ramhari Das with rhythmic punctuations conceived by Dhaneswar Swain. The sensitively conceived dance composition was by Guru Durgacharan Ranbir. In the typical Debaprasad Das approach to Odissi, the dance was bereft of an overdose of elaborations or sancharis. But the less embroidered version, when performed with intensity, was very persuasive.
Photos: Anand Kishore

Jyoti with her mobile mukhabhinaya began with "Rasamoyee Srikishori", the abhisarika describing the beauty of Krishna on the swing. Sakhee go moro kunjaku aja, the vasakasajja prepares herself and sets out to meet Krishna, hiding from revealing the lilt of expectancy in her (luchi rakhichi kusuma mana). With the next lyric Saribo ki ae nishi go, Jyoti became the heroine waiting for the absent beloved (proshitapatika), wondering how long she will be able to bear this separation. As the nayika suffering the pangs of separation (vipralabdha) the dancer's interpretation to the song Basi mo hela phula seja shows that after all her preparedness for him, the profusion of flowers she used have all dried, she requests the clouds to become her messenger, taking her message of love and agony to the beloved, Ramaneerotanu Meghaku chehee. Predictably, the loved one appears before her but with all the signs of dalliance with another woman. Jahe lampat natvar satha dhita, cries the scorned khandita nayika in anguished anger pointing at all the marks of passion on his person. Regretting her harsh treatment in sending him away, the dancer as kalahantarita, wonders confiding her distress with the sakhi, Sakhi re aha ki kormo kali. She wonders what made her do what she had done. The conclusion sees the nayika in ecstatic togetherness with her beloved. She is now the swadheenapatika confident of her love, as she shyly asks that he give her back her clothes, before anybody sees her. The nayika's nakedness, suggested without actual words by the rest of the exchange with the beloved, was subtly brought out in Jyoti's abhinaya with the cringing actions.

Prafulla Mangaraj's mardal in its soft tones provided good accompaniment and Lavanya Ambade's sitar interventions were very tuneful. Deheeraj Pande's flute and above all Prafulla Mangaraj, the vocalist who did not fault in sur, provided good support for the recital.

Swapnasundari's disciple Anmol, a budding dancer, showed innate talent in the Pravesha Daru of Satyabhama from Bhama Kalapam. With live music, her recital would have had greater impact. The Tarangam music tape Govardhana Giridhari Hargovinda Gokula Bala Paramananda with Sarala Rao, her guru's mother singing, was interesting. A neat dancer, even all the mandi adavus movements to the tat taneku taka tenuku sollus , were executed correctly. A pleasant dancer, one has to see how she grows.

A surprise from Angul
Seeing the glossy printed pamphlet on Swapna Rani Sinha, one wondered how a dancer who is mentioned as having achieved so much is not even known in Delhi. This disciple of Durga Charan Ranbir, sitting in Odisha's Angul, the district headquarters, has been running a school Nrutya Nilaya, apart from organising a festival Satkosia Mahotsav at Angul, since the last six years. But what emerged as a major surprise were the slim, well turned out, proficient dancers of her group performing at Habitat's Stein auditorium. Swapna Rani's own choreography of the Shiva Shatakshara Stotram set to raga Madhyamadi by composer/singer Ramhari Das with rhythmic inputs by Guru Dhaneswar Swain in Ata and Jati talas, saw a well coordinated group perform. In the Durgacharan Ranbir fashion, movement is punctuated by powerful frozen moments (interpreting ideas like Shiva with the snake garlanding his neck - vasuki kantha bhooshanam - or the blue throated Neelakantha lord) designed for the entire group with the well balanced dancers very still, heralding each of the syllables Na Ma Shi Va Ya .

The Chakravaka Pallavi set to Ek tali rendered by the group, a Nirmal Chandra Mohapatra composition, is very old. But Swapna's dance direction included some solfa syllabic passages at the end, which is not part of the original composition. All dancers executed the bhramaris correctly. The one unprofessional moment was when the ankle bells of one of the dancers came off. Dashamahavidya , which had too long an explanation read out (nobody in the audience listens to anything taking more than two minutes from backstage), opened up plenty of opportunities for the ten fierce manifestations of the Devi representing the inevitability of the cycle of new life emerging out of death and destruction. One cannot exist without the other, and the Goddess is worshipped in forms combining benevolence and destruction. Kali, Tara, Bhubaneswari, Sodasi, Bagala, Chinnamasta, Matangi, Bhairavi, Kamala and Dhumavati were the avatars of Shakti with the concluding prayer to Lakshmi - Namastestu Mahadevi sree peethe surapoojita, Shanku chakra gada haste Mahalakshmi namostute. Anisha Sinha, Tamanna Patra, Pinaki Das, Swornaki Das, Anouska Mohakud, Tejaswini Sahoo, Suhani Pradhan and Jasobanta Samal are all well trained.

Swapna Rani's solo projection of two abhinaya numbers Radha Rani Sange Nache Murali Pani in Bakula Bharana raga, with dance composition by Durgacharan Ranbir, would have been more impressive if the partnering male dancer's torso had been covered without drawing attention to the stomach flab, which in the role of Krishna distracted. Swapna Rani also presented Navarasa based on episodes from Ramayana. Flautist Mohini Mohan Patnaik's music and the dancer's interpretation of karunyam set to Shivaranjani , Arbhutam set to Malkauns , Roudram with music in Mohanam etc. did not offer anything new. While the dance was more than adequate, I am more impressed by Swapna Rani as teacher and choreographer. One wishes her well.

Writing on the dance scene for the last forty years, Leela Venkataraman's incisive comments on performances of all dance forms, participation in dance discussions both in India and abroad, and as a regular contributor to Hindu Friday Review, journals like Sruti and Nartanam, makes her voice respected for its balanced critiquing. She is the author of several books like Indian Classical dance: Tradition in Transition, Classical Dance in India and Indian Classical dance: The Renaissance and Beyond.

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