In memory of the legendary Odissi dancer and guru, Debaprasad Das, the prestigious Guru Debaprasad Award Festival is held every year on his birth anniversary for the past 12 years by Tridhara in Bhubaneswar. Debaprasad Das had created a unique style by amalgamating tribal and folk dance elements with classical Odissi with the scintillating sabdaswarapatha.
Under the leadership of Gajendra Panda, director and torch-bearer of the Debaprasad school, Tridhara honours acclaimed dancers, gurus and personalities, who have made a significant contribution to Indian art and culture on the opening day of their three-day annual festival.
The prestigious 13th Guru Debaprasad Award for 2019 was presented to eminent personalities such as guru V.P.Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan (Bharatanatyam), veteran guru Durga Charan Ranbir (Odissi), Pt.Raghav Raj Bhatt and Bidushi Mangala Bhatt (Kathak) and senior art critic Nita Vidyarthi.
The Guru Debaprasad Prativa Award introduced last year to encourage promising young talents in Odissi dance, went to Binayak Panda (Ganjam), Amrita Das (Vardhaman), Rathimalar Govindarajoo (Malaysia), and Atasi Mishra (Rayagada).
After the inauguration and the award ceremony, the distinguished dancer and foremost disciple of Debaprasad Das, Durga Charan Ranbir, opened his performance with the Ektali based mangalacharan He Krishna karunasindhu set to raga Kalyan, mesmerizing with his tribhanga at the very outset. The chiselled, baraha hasta mudra (boar hand gesture) in Baraha pidabhi Ram mrigamada tilakam and imagery of kundalkanta mandakam lighted up the underlying nuances of the lines. His captivating abhinaya of the Jayadeva ashtapadi Mamiyamchalita bilokyam set to raga Kalabati (Triputa tala) in Ramahari Das’ music sung by Sukanta Kundu, saw the best of the exemplary veteran in his own choreography. Niranjan Patra’s pakhawaj, Abhiram Nanda’s flute and Ramchandra Behera’s manjira provided understanding support. He concluded his recital with a short piece Pada shrinkhalam Madhava hridaya banam with his disciples Manoj Kumar and Gayatri.
The principal dancers of Tridhara presented the Odissi dance drama Yogini Yoga Rupa, portraying vividly some of the yoginis like Kalika, Chandika, Ramchandi, Bhadrakali and others from the 64 yoginis, which are the manifestations of the yogic power of Rudra (Lord Shiva) resulting from his meditation. Kedar Mishra’s script inspired by the hypaethral temples of Yogini Pitha in Ranipur-Jharial in Balangir district and Hirapur, near Bhubaneswar, illustrated the mystical female cult of 9th century.
There is a popular belief that yoginis had their origins in animistic traditions of adivasis and they worshipped grama devatas (village goddesses). Gajendra Panda‘s invigorating choreography recreated the primal power of these folk traditions with a rustic touch, incorporating folk elements like Daskathia. What kept the interest alive was the rhythmic sabdaswarapatha Chan Chan Chandrahans Chakitahara and Kali kankali naramundamali with briskly stepped movements around the stage of these goddesses (dancers) on their respective vahaanas like the buffaloes and the lovely dancers’ pyramid with Bhadrakali on top. Blended with sharp music by Gopal Chandra Panda and vibrant ukuta of guru Dhaneswar Swain, the rendition offered interpretative brilliance to the sahitya.
It was a real privilege to watch a dignified Bharatanatyam duet on the second evening by the veteran dancing couple V.P.Dhananjayan and Shanta Dhananjayan. The unforgettable, involved rendition of the ashtapadis Yahi Madhava, intertwining smoothly with Badasiyadi kinchidapi from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, created a piece of dramatic spiritual significance with clear enunciation of the lyrics. Simple costumes, unhurried, extremely natural movements, restrained abhinaya, expansive ability and soft-focused visualisation of Priye charushiley, while sustaining the intense moments, captivated throughout the performance. Shanta Dhananjayan as Radha portrayed a strong woman accusing Krishna of being unchaste in love towards her and asks him to go away. VP Dhananjayan as Krishna implores forgiveness with a naughty look playing upon his twinkling eyes even at eighty!
Another senior couple Raghav Raj Bhatt and Mangala Bhatt brought home the essence of Durga Lal‘s Kathak in their performance. Raghav Raj Bhatt’s Madhurashtakam was fulfilling with smooth Kathak elements. Mangala Bhatt’s abhinaya in the thumri, Mohe Chhedona Nanda ke Chhail was communicative. The duet tarana in raga Kalavati composed by Pt. Birju Maharaj, saw innumerable variations and detailed treatment of the rhythm showing their mastery over rhythmic syllables of nritta.
Rathimalar Govindarajoo, a fit and strong dancer, has a complete understanding of the Debaprasad style. In her rendition of Ashtashambhoo, she communicated wonderfully with religious fervor, especially portraying Marang barayate.
Amrita Das, principally a skilful dancer of the Kelubabu gharana had adapted the Debaprasad style competently. Her Durga tandava choreographed by Gajendra Panda was an effective enquiry into the iconography of the powerful mother goddess.
It was heartening to see that Tridhara had devoted the entire closing evening to solo recitals of Chanda, Champu and Bhajan, the traditional songs of Odisha by stalwarts, luminaries and seasoned singers. The second evening opened with the melodious flute recital of Pt. Ajay Prasanna in raga Puriya Kalyan, vilambit, madhyalaya, and finally, a riveting drut accompanied by Prasenjit Poddar’s wizardry on the tabla.
Kavi Samrat Upendra Bhanja recipient 82-year-old Shyamamani Devi, put forth an amazing theme and content in her full-throated rendition of Chapadhari Raghunath goley mrigamari , but the centerpiece was the cha champu, Thapire kaho thapirey priya sakhi, concluding with a soulful chanda, Aha dhanurdhar birabor. Age has not tarnished the sublime appeal in her rendition. Veteran Chittaranjan Pani, began with the highly popular janana, Monima Sunima followed by the delicately tuned janana, Dinabandhu Ayi aali Srichhamurey (appeal to the almighty) with bhaktibhava.
Guru Ramhari Das introduced champu kavya as a work of exquisite literary composition of poetry and prose where all lines of a song begin with an assigned alphabet. There are only 34 songs. His recital started with the Odia alphabet “Ha”(Ha champu, Hari hambaro ek praner dhan) followed by the soul-stirring bhajan, Shymalroop Barna Sundar. Delineating the raga Simhendra Madyam, veteran Keshav Chandra Rout enthralled with Sapatati moro re (Sa champu).
Sangita Panda, daughter and disciple of the stalwart Gopal Chandra Panda is a powerful singer. A janana, Daya koro Dinabandhu sukhey jau aaro din, brought out the emotive aspects of raga Chakrakeli, and intensity of the lyrics. The chanda, Sriradha batuli premarasa tuli in raga Krushna Kedar, reflected a textured depth in her singing.
The timbre in the renowned Sangita Gosain’s voice is extremely captivating. Hence the chanda, Aarey babu shyamghana and Dha champu, Dhira re ki dhana tu na dilu aaja took a different dimension.
Nazia Sayeed has a sweet and delicate high pitched voice just right for the La champu Leelanidhi hey. Her singing was refined with an elegant charm.
Photos courtesy: Tridhara