The annual Kelucharan Mohapatra Purush festival put men under the spotlight.

In loving memory of his illustrious father, Orissa's young Odissi Guru Ratikant Mohapatra launched the annual Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Purush Dance Festival three years ago in Bhubaneswar. The festival aims at encouraging marginalised male dancers in Indian classical dance scenario besides sensitising the audience about their obsession with female dancers.

The recent three-day event at Jayadev Bhawan in Orissa's capital featured nine soloists representing four dance styles — Kathak, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Odissi. However, with six Odissi dancers out of nine artistes, the festival had an overdose of Odissi. And sadly enough, barring the budding Debasis Patnaik, none of the Odissi performances left a lasting impact on the audience.

Odissi fervour

The six Odissi artistes included three young gurus — Gajendra Panda, Bichitrananda Swain and Manoranjan Pradhan (all from Orissa) — and three young dancers — Panchanan Bhuyan, Rashmi Ranjan Jena (both based in New Delhi) and Debasis Patnaik from Bhubaneswar. Disciple of Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, flag-bearer of the distinct Debaprasad Das style of Odissi, Debasis — who also emerged as the best performer of the festival with his brilliant body kinetic — captivated with his dance of grace and grandeur.

The most disappointing dancer of the festival was Kolkata's Kathak artiste Santosh Kumar Chatterjee who was neither neat in the pure nor in the expressional aspects of dancing. However, both the handsome and graceful dancers from Bangalore — P. Pravin Kumar (Bharatanatyam) and Guru Raj (Kuchipudi) were the saving grace in the non-Odissi segment. Pravin, disciple of Guru Narmada and Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar, put up a neat recital. And Raj, the youngest dancer of the festival and disciple of Vyjayanti Kashi, made his debut as a soloist giving glimpses of a promising future.

A talk on the male dancers' scenario and his screening of a film on the issue by India's leading dance critic and historian Ashish Mohan Khokar was lively with participation of a number of dance enthusiasts from India and abroad. The festival was dedicated to male Kathak dancer, guru and Hindustani vocalist Bireshwar Gautam of Mumbai who passed away recently. Incidentally, Bireshwar was hosting a male dancers' festival in Mumbai.