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Pt. Rajendra Gangani – an epitome of perfection

Aficionados travelled from far and wide to get the very best of Odisha’s very own culture – the Odissi dance form as popularized by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Srjan is a historical institution that needs to be preserved and protected. The guru has laid milestones. Only posterity can tell how far his progeny will be successful in extending the boundaries of Odissi, he created. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was a visionary who has laid the foundation of an ancient legacy which would require the toil and effort with an oneness of mind to carry it forward. Guru Ratikant Mohapatra may not have the greatness of his father Guru Keluchran Mohapatra, but he is carrying his mantle with creativity and far-sightedness. He is just not a ‘Copy, paste’ of his father, but is breaking new ground without compromising on the style.

Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra’s celebration to carry on his father’s vision brings him to lovers of the performing arts every year. Actually Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival was started way back in 1994 during the life time of the guru, who wished to provide a platform to aspiring Odissi performers, as well as recognize talents in other classical genres of both music and dance. After all what is dance without music? His able son Guru Ratikant Mohapatra is following his father’s footsteps in this.

Pandit Rajendra Gangani of the house of Pt Kundan Lal Gangani of the famed Jaipur Gharana, who performed at the festival, was a treat for the audience at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar. Possessed with a perfect Apollo like figure and hair to match, his appearance on stage caught everybody’s attention. He was in the best of forms that evening. His naman ending with “Jagannatha Swamy nayana patha gami bhavatu mey” managed to hold the pulse of Odisha.

This was followed by his first main piece, Durga Stuti of Guru Gobind Singhji, portraying the power and grandeur of Goddess Durga. Then came the Nritta aspect of Kathak, exploring the technical intricacies of pure dance effortlessly and with absolute poise and dignity, captivating the audience. Uthan; chhut ki uthan; banduk ki chhut; teer ki uthan were flawlessly executed. Some of the gems of Kundan Lal Gharana like Ganesh Paran; as also the variations of ‘dha’; the gati of a snake involved the audience to an extent that the time limit allotted to the dancer was thrown to the fore winds by the involved dancer. Once a Kathakar takes to the stage and the audience is receptive, it sure is bound to be a longish affair.

Seeing the intricacies of drut laya to the accompaniment of tabla and Pakhawaj in a difficult bandish and falling of rains at times in tiny droplets; soon to change to larger ones followed by torrential rain , in the midst of which  moved peacocks with their typical movements, was the experience of a life time, he offered. As if these did not take time enough, ‘Krishna Radha ki ched chad’ displaying the coyness of Radha and the adventurous lover playfully teasing her, was presented to entertain.

An Abhinaya from Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda, Srita Kamala Kuccha Mandala in the Kathak genre invoked a newness rarely seen before. Beautiful portrayal of this popular Ashtapadi spoke volumes about his mastery Over the Kathak idiom and subtle nuances of abhinaya. He captured the essence of Kelucharan Mohapatra’s abhinaya. Exploration of Dhrut Laya of Teen Taal and Lehras in Raag Charukeshi were a rare treat. Through his innovative style and technical wizardry, Pt. Gangani presented an evening of Kathak that was truly a memorable experience for the Bhubaneswar audience. His expression of bhakti was mesmerizing. He was a true picture of a yogi with eyes open, but looking inwards. Aarti done near the huge picture of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra spread benevolence. Dressed in pure white with a yellow sash used as a belt gave him the grip needed in fast paced renditions. Be it the chakkars with swaras; or tatkars; or gintis in teentaal he was an epitome of perfection. Accompanied by Sri Ravi Shankar Sharma on Sitar, Sri Ayyub Khan on the Sarangi, Sri Samiullah Khan on Vocals and Sri Yogesh Gangani on the Tabla, he was the master craftsman.

Lighting of the lamp by dignitaries at Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival

The second performance of the evening was a classical Carnatic Violin recital by the immensely talented Ambi Subramaniam. Hailed as the new king of Indian classical violin, Ambi lived upto his reputation with a sensitive, mature and spell-binding performance. He commenced with a composition by his father, Dr. L. Subramaniam, in Raga Abhogi which praised Lord Ganesha. The next one was a Pallavi, a Thyagraja Composition in Raag Charukesi. A scintillating tillana concluded his concert. He was ably accompanied on the Mridangam by V.V. Ramanamurthy and on the Morsing by Satyasai Ghantasala.

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