‘Megha Utsav’: Rain and Raaga

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Eminent Odissi Singer, Composer and Scholar Guru Ramahari Das performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Eminent Odissi Singer, Composer and Scholar Guru Ramahari Das performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar

By Kedar Mishra

Eminent Odissi Singer, Composer and Scholar Guru Ramahari Das performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Eminent Odissi Singer, Composer and Scholar Guru Ramahari Das performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar: The rich and bulky festival calendar of Odisha Tourism, continues to add extra bulks by increasing the numbers of festivals. Culturally Odisha is known for its fairs and festivals and proudly we declare that we have thirteen festivals in twelve months. Odisha Tourism is currently beating all those records and going for numerous new festivals. Energizing all its cultural wings like Academies (all three for literature, performing art and visual art), Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre (GKCMORC) and the Odisha Tourism department is creating history to make the capital city Bhubaneswar, a festive city. Though it has been a matter of criticism for not going out from Bhubaneswar, still it’s a matter of jubilation. Festival enriches cultural space and environment. It gives moral and economic support to artistes/institutions, and also enables them to develop a taste of classicism among the mass. With this mood of jubilation, one must not forget the need to build up infrastructural support. Institution making is an area of darkness in Odisha and existing the cultural institutions lack their vision and imagination. The Department of Culture must look into these gray areas for a while, taking some time off from the overcrowded success of the festivals.

Confluence in Letters, Not in Spirit

Megha Utsav, celebrating monsoon through poetry, paintings, dance and music is a grand idea. Thinking to create a platform for all visual and performing art forms is quite heartening. The spirit of this festival is inspiring, but execution needs a little more imagination and involvement. The Sangeet Natak Academy of Odisha as its prime executor must look for a curatorial vision. For a theme based festival like this, organizers must take help from expert curators who can design a comprehensive concept and methodology. All the art forms like poetry, painting and music &dance could have come together to create a brilliant confluence. In this festival all the three are isolated and are meeting no where. Poetry reading was a lackluster affair and hundreds of insignificant poets created a boring show of barren words. Poetry is a great art of performance. Sahitya Academy unfortunately never realized it. Likewise Lalit Kala Akademi’s Artist camp was quite an orthodox one. There could have been a separate exhibition for the artistes. At least Rabindra Mandap could have witnessed a historic confluence of creativity, if it could have been a curatorial show.

Raaga of Rain

Eminent Rabindra Sangeet Singer Smt. Pramita Mallick from Kolkata performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Eminent Rabindra Sangeet Singer Smt. Pramita Mallick from Kolkata performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
The best part of this festival was the Indian classical music and it is because of the presence of few musical stalwarts likes Subha Mudgal, Pramita Mallick, Ramahari Das, Bijay Jena and T.M.Krishna. Veteran Odissi singer and composer Ramahari Das set the mood of this festival by singing three beautiful Odissi composition based on the moods of rain. His perfect and sonorous singing of Jagannath Das’s Bhagabata was really a treat to the ear.

The first evening of the Megha Utsav was full of musical feasting and that to bestowing various classical taste. It was Pramita Mallick, the Rabindra Sangeet exponent from Kolkata, who charmed the audience with some of Gurudev’s great rain songs like ‘Eso Shyamola sundara‘, ‘Bhanu singher podabali‘ and few more. Pramita maintained the authentic pattern of Rabindra gayaki and her tonal throws were quite expressive. Balancing high and low notes, she captured the magic of rain in Gurudev’s poem.

Hindustani Vocalist Shubha Mudgal performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Hindustani Vocalist Shubha Mudgal performing at the inaugural evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar

The evening got its real treat of fulfillment through inimitable and unique Subha Mudgal. Starting her Aalap in Gaud Mallhar and swiftly moving to Sudhha Mallhar in Drut Laya, she brought in the feeling of cloud. Her charismatic voice and superb balancing of notes, were mesmerizing. She concluded the evening with a melodious Kajri. A simple WOH.

Odissi Music by Guru Bijay Kumar Jena on the second evening of  the Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap, in Bhubaneswar
Odissi Music by Guru Bijay Kumar Jena on the second evening of the Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap, in Bhubaneswar
The second evening started with highly promising Bijaya Jena’s Odissi rendering in Kedar Kamod. A sweet and impressive Raaga. Bijaya also picked a Chhanda from Rasika Harabali and sung with heart. Later Odissi performer Mohapatra Minati Bhanja’s tonal quality was in a seismic zone. She trembled, faltered and failed to reach the tonal range.

T. M. Krishna from Chennai performing on the concluding evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar
T. M. Krishna from Chennai performing on the concluding evening of Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar
The concluding evening experienced the true magic of music. It was the young and highly talented T.M.Krishna, one of the finest voices of Carnatic tradition, who poured in like the incessant rain of Sravana. An amazing singer who is extraordinarily perfect in high and low notes. Superb Taankari that went deep into Rasikas heart. His two Raagas Amrita Varshini and Barali manifested his grips over Parampara (tradition) and longing for Prayoga(experiment). He concluded his concert with an unusual Rabindra song ‘Eso shyamola sundara‘. I have heard this song sung by many great singers, but Krishna was unusually different. There was a spark of genius in his singing.

Dance Divine

Odissi performance by the artistes of Orissa Dance Academy,  on the second evening of  the Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar
Odissi performance by the artistes of Orissa Dance Academy, on the second evening of the Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar
The lone Odissi group presentation in the festival was from Orissa Dance Academy which was on the second evening of the festival. Creative army of Orissa Dance Academy took over the hearts and soaked everyone with rain songs. Two old and a fresh composition of Guru Aruna Mohanty were presented with perfection and balance. As a highly professional group the boys and girls from Orissa Dance Academy, presented their well rehearsed Varsha Varnali(a pure dance number) and Varsha Abhisara( a mix of Nritta and Abhinaya). They met the audience’s expections and went with perfect sync.

Bhojpuri Dance by Ajay Dube and Group from Patna, Bihar on the second evening of  the Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Bhojpuri Dance by Ajay Dube and Group from Patna, Bihar on the second evening of the Megha Utsav at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar
Freshly composed Barasha rasa is based on ‘Barasha ghana mera pir ghara aya‘, a sufi poem from holy Guru Granth Sahib. It is an abstract poem, where the supreme divinity is being described as Piya or lover, that is much similar to Odia mystic poetry tradition. Soulfully sung by Roopak Parida and very sensitively danced by Madhusmita Mohanty and Jahnabi Behera, it is a new laurel on the already rich cap of choreographer Aruna Mohanty. Forming and reforming the formless one in well crafted Sancharis manifested the deep involvement of the composer and the dancers with the theme, which was a treat for the soul. Madhusmita and Jahnabi ably imprinted their individuality and their soulful expression can be called as an inspiration to spirit.

In folk dance Bhojpuri and Jhumar were not up to mark. Its a unique concept and needs little polishing and rethinking.

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