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Remembering the maestro

LEELA VENKATARAMAN

HOMAGE A moving performance in memory of a guru.



A TRIBUTE: Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra.

TIME'S RELENTLESS march waits for no man. Seventh of April this year marked the first anniversary of a fateful day when the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra departed from this mortal world. Students of the guru from all parts of the country converged at Guruji's home in old Bhubaneswar town, to offer homage to a venerated teacher in `Samsmaranam', a shraddhanjali mounted by Srjan, the guru's institution now headed by son Ratikant Mohapatra, its Director.

It was a day of hectic activity at Srjan. Visitors entering the threshold of the house after paying obeisance to the resplendent Jagannath in the little shrine facing the gate, were greeted by the large flower-bedecked photograph of a smiling Guruji, hands in anjali hasta.In the side-hall sat Guruma Laxmipriya welcoming and breaking down in turns.

As `gurubehens' and the odd `gurubhai' exchanged bittersweet memories of days with the guru, Kumkum Mohanty provided diversion with her droll mimicry narrating old incidents.

With only the broad framework laid down, discussions on filling the details of the evening of homage to be held at Rabindra Bhavan began, even as students of Srjan flitted in and out, touching the feet of elders and seeking their blessings.

Guruji's little granddaughter recited with ιlan the Sanskrit slokas giving a demonstration of mudras, both samyuta and asamyuta. The complete absence of competitive career one-upmanship amongst the gathered dancers was a chastening experience. Senior dancers like Madhavi Mudgal, Kumkum Lal, Jheelum Paranjape and Sharmila Biswas began rehearsing the guruvandana, conceived as mangalacharan for the next evening, as designed by Kumkum Mohanty.

Photo exhibition

The photo exhibition in the Rabindra-mandap foyer, inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Orissa, carrying blown-up images of Guru Kelucharan in every possible mood - performing, teaching, socialising, receiving awards, and playing the mardal - provided a virtual pictorial biography of the guru.

Following the screening of a DVD of Guruji performing `Kuru-yadunandana', students of Srjan and outside institutions performed. Turned out with minimum gloss of finery, the youngsters danced with involvement and confidence. But one saw how one guru's legacy was already assuming shades and nuances in technique and execution, obviously tailored by the specific student of guruji under whom the dancer was trained. Body deflections were exaggerated in some, muted in others, with the central line not always held unchanged.

The broad square half-seated stance (chauka) was conspicuously missing, replaced by the Bharatanatyam type of ardhamandali. It was heartening to see batu, competently rendered by the Srjan students, this demanding item fast disappearing from the contemporary Odissi concert format. Young Ipsita Sinha of Kolkata, performing "Nachanti Range Srihari" in Guruji's designing of combined virtuosity with abhinaya, was impressive - a talent to be watched.

That seeds sown by Guru Kelucharan can sprout in unexpected soil was clear from the high praise the specially choreographed Kevat prasang performed by little known Ghosal and Group of Art Vision Bhubaneswar evoked from discerning viewers.

The evening recital, inaugurated by the Governor featured only senior students of Guruji. The performances displayed a different level of communication from artistes living with the dance for years. The awesome versatility of the Guru was seen in the range of the pallavis presented - the delicate torso manipulations of Arabhi pallavi by Anandi Ramachandran, the blistering layakari of the Khamaj pallavi presented by Madhavi Mudgal, and the quicksilver charm of the Hamsadhwani pallavi rendered by Guruji's daughter-in-law Sujata with her angasuddha.

Gita Govind had its representation in Guruji's 1967 choroegraphy of "Dhira Samire" presented by Jhelum Paranjpe, the beautifully simple original version of "Pashyati Dishi Dishi" rendered by veteran Minati Misra, and a stirring "Yahi Madhav" where Radha's anger and anguish never lose the rati undertone in Kumkum Lal's presentation.

In the natya mode was "Brajaku Chora" by Daksha Mashruwala and "Ahe Neela Saila" by Debi Basu.

With interspersed snippets of information on aspects of the guru, the evening proved memorable for all. Simply clad with no fanfare, the dancers' offering to their guru carried that throb of reverence without a hint of the ego - the best aspect of Samsmaranam.

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