By Kedar Mishra

Artistes performing on the concluding evening of the Gotipua Dance Festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar on Saturday
Artistes performing on the concluding evening of the Gotipua Dance Festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar on Saturday
Bhubaneswar: History is not always fair to its people. It talks about mainstream and big traditions, temples and kingdom; it also fondly describes the life style of kings, courts and people of power. The real pulse of people which beats up in streets and at the remote darkness of villages goes unnoticed by history and historians. Our cultural history is not an exception to this. While talking on dance and music, we do concentrate more on temples and courts, where we can see frozen figures of dancing girls and musicians carved on stone. That leads to a partisan historical view where common man is deprived from his due share and space. Cultural history of Odisha is no less a victim of historical highhandedness. While dissecting the source of Odissi dance, one of the fastest growing and internationally acclaimed dance form from Odisha, we do lost in a terrible conflict of Maharis and Gotipuas as its source. Many of our scholars make a futile effort to see things in black and white and try to subscribe an absurd theory that Gotipua as a dance form came into existence after the vibrant Mahari tradition came to an end. This one is one of the finest historical inaccuracies that we go on cherishing. Even Odisha Tourism sponsored second Gotipua Festival subscribes to this absurd idea and the anchor persons goes on narrating that Gotipua as a cultural forms came after Maharis. In fact both Mahari and Gotipua tradition enriched our cultural life hand in hand; the former inside temple and the later on the streets. Gotipuas expressed finer sensibilities of Odia society through their actions and formations. Odisha Tourism’s effort to create an exclusive platform for Gotipuas deserves accolades.

Artistes performing on the second day of the Gotipua Dance Festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar on Friday
Artistes performing on the second day of the Gotipua Dance Festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar on Friday
Second edition of the Gotipua Festival, presented by Odisha Tourism and organized by GKCM Odissi Research Center from 15th to 17th of November at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar provided platform to ten Gotipua groups to display their talent and creativity. We saw variation of the styles and the touch of Desi craftsmanship. Its not only traditional, it goes surpassing the well set traditional values and many of the Gurus rightfully dare to relook the tradition from today’s point of view. Body kinetic of Gotipuas are redesigned with new age out looks. Younger Gotipua Gurus like Bijaya Kumar Sahu and Pravat Kumar Swain looked for new ideas and fresh outlook to redesign an old art forms. There were good and bad performances, but over all the impact was highly ecstatic and aesthetic. Veterans like Birabara Sahu through his most disciplined and well groomed pupils from Konark Natya Mandap proved that he still has the magical ability to make alive the stony sculptures of Konark in Bandha. Tremendous harmony of Bandha and Bhava was seen in Konarka Natya Mandap’s presentations. Naxatra Gurukul, Nilakantheswar Gurukul, Odisha Dance Academy and few more impressed with their art works.

Watching this festival few flashes of concerns came to my mind and am posing those few points as questions for larger debate.

1) Is it Odissi which was the off shoot is now dominating the Desi aesthetic of Gotipua? Insertion of choreographic idea, use of Hastakas and torso movements are highly influenced by modern day’s Odissi. If it goes like this people will say that Gotipua is a poor imitation of Odissi, in reality it could have been the other way round.

2) Is it getting more sanitized and highly polished repertory and are slowly being cut off from it’s root? The typical Chhai, Chhatak and Chhapkas are now replaced by disciplined and plastic like facial expression.

3) Musically I found few groups doing terrible compromises and their Taal pattern sounds a bit Bollywoodish. This one may lead to a terrible disaster and may kill the original sources.

Having its flips and flops the show must go on. The idea of this festival need to be a bit more inclusive and other source dance like Sakhi Nata and Sabda Swarapata must be a part of it.