Bhubaneswar: It is a festival with difference. A platform created to showcase the best of Indian classical compositions and bring out the cream la cream of choreographic talent to the city of Odissi. Samrachana, the first choreography festival organized by Odisha Sangeet Natak Academy in collaboration with Department of Culture and Tourism inaugurated at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar on Thursday, will generate a lot of enthusiasm among the dance lovers. Major classical dance forms of India represented by accomplished composers and choreographers will to be showcased for five days. Experimentation and innovation in dance language are to be explored in this festival.
Invoking the Devil
On every evening of the festival the audience will have the opportunity to watch two compositions; one Odissi and a different dance form. Inaugurating the event Srjan, the renowned dance institute founded by legendary Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra and now led by his son Ratikant Mohapatra presented a narrative composition based on Ramayana with an unorthodox interpretation, where the original hero is being sidelined and the villain is brought up as hero. It sounds very interesting and in modern literature we do a lot of experiment by interpreting classics from different point of views. Definitely this kind of unorthodox interpretations added a new dimension to our thinking process.
In Ravana, Ratikanta intends to narrate Ravana as the prime mover of Ramayana and for that he is having a poor logic and no scriptural support. The whole script is an imaginary one and is written like a modern Sanskrit poetry. One can narrate Ravana as a hero, no problem. But starting a classical composition by invoking a demon is hardly appreciable. Lankesha Ravanam Vande Veda Vedanta Panditam , the invocation goes as if Ravana was god himself. In some Ramayana written in regional languages Ravana’s deed has been legitimatized by branding him as a cursed being and his act as a demon is supposed to be pre-destined by the god himself. Going by that logic, one can have sympathy for Ravana, but Ratikanta brands him as Maha Nayaka or the super hero. If Ravana is super hero, what would be Rama’s role? Abduction of women, killing the innocent and stealing and plundering can hardly be treated as heroic work. No classical tradition allows its followers to take such liberty. A classical artist is supposed to be binding by the prescribed rule- Kwachit Ninda Khaladinam Satanch Guna Kirtanam. There were numerous errors in the script. I can cite just one. While performing Yajna, Ravana recites OM AGNAYE SWAHA. One must note the fact that Ravana was the arch rival of gods and he imprisoned all the gods. His presiding deity Lord Shiva, who is also the clan god of all demons, could have been invoked.
From choreographic point of view there is hardly any thing new or noteworthy. Ratikanta is just repeating himself. The promise that he had shown few years back as a choreographer is waning out slowly. While composing he put himself in the center, but he looked terribly tired and stressed on the stage. After few steps his body slowed down. Apart from this the choreographic vision in this particular composition is based on repetitiveness. Literal translation of the ill composed ( sometime imitative) Sanskrit verses, made the performance stale and predictive. What the Sutradhar( Sutradhar is a person, for the first time we saw a group as Sutradhar) is narrating that has been translated into action by the characters again, which was unnecessary and unwanted. There was lack of expressional equanimity among the artistes. However good foot work by Ratikant himself and synchronized movements of the group are few positive points.
Rain, War and Rasa
The concluding item was Ojas, a four piece composition by Bengaluru based Kathak dancer duo Nirupama and Rajendra. The duo are trained under Kathak maestro Kumudini Lakhia, who is famous for her innovative and unorthodox choreography. Nirupama and Rajendra sprang up to stage with controlled energy and created a poetic environment. Varsha, the rain was the first piece. Based on Pravin Godkhinde’s scintillating music, it was a pure delight to watch the perfect duo. Neat foot work, controlled but convincingly poetic Chakkars and natural Bhavabhinaya announced their arrival to present the best of Kathak.
Their second presentation was Raasa Leela, a bit bollywoodish but well composed. Ta Dhin, a superb composition by Kumudini Lakhia, was well executed by Rajendra and Nirupama. Finally they performed Abhimanyu, a Veera Rasa. The composition was too fast to look at and was nothing very inspiring.
The unique festival however needs to be appreciated for its design and dazzling brilliance. This festival will give us a chance to appreciate and evaluate contemporary classical world of dancing in India.
A. K. Tripathy, Secretary of Tourism and Culture, Odissi exponent Dr. Minati Mishra, OSNA president Sarat Pujari, celebrated dance critic Dr. Sunil Kothari, Aruna Mohanty, Chief Dance Critic of New York Times Allester Macauley and Vice-President of OSNA graced the inaugural evening as guests.