Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra’s solo performance in Kolkata on Guru Purnima left the audience asking for more
In the firmament of dance today, great dancers have emerged no doubt but seldom one comes across a versatile artiste-performer, dancer-choreographer, ace pakhawaj player, critic and above all a teacher like Ratikanta Mohapatra. His work enraptures the audience with the sophistication of his beautiful dancing alone, signifying that he is bearing with elan the legacy of his legendary father and Guru, Kelucharan Mohapatra, and holds the directorship of his institute, Srjan. So it was expected that his solo Odissi recital at Gyan Manch, Kolkata, on the occasion of Guru Purnima would be really special. His energetic entry with “Anjali hasta” in the Mangalacharan- Guruvandana” sung by Satyabrata Katha in raga Malika set to Adi tala, revealed his wizardry over rhythm with exquisite dexterous footwork while encompassing the performance space, to be in a very short repose after the “Pranata”.
Resting principally on Nritta with all the elements of the dance form, the elaborate combinations and permutations of the tala was presented in an irrepressible style. The number offered various pada-bhedas and bhangis related to the tala and the vandana, expressing also with “nibedana” .This was followed by a long abhinaya piece, “Ram Bhajan”, in Jati and Adi tala with music by Pradip Kumar Das set to the popular Tulsibhajan “Ramchandra Kripalu Bhajamana”. It was sung soulfully by Vijay Kumar Jena, although one missed the popular tune! The prayer in praise and adulation of Lord Ram had been extended in the sanchari bhava to “Sita Swayambara” and the “conflict” between Ram and Ravana. The two subtexts were performed imaginatively with the first two lines of the bhajan sung as interludes and cross lines between the dancing and the abhinaya in the texts.
In the first episode, Sita Swayambara, the enactment of lifting the “Haradhanu” was magnificent. The challenges faced by various kings were portrayed brilliantly. The expressions of over-confidence and then failure by the Kings were a contribution of movement of each facial muscle, really being an anatomist’s delight. The elaborate treatment attending to the details of the difficulties encountered in the process were highly enjoyable also because Ratikanta had added some comical elements in the gait and facial expressions in this item.
The brisk tandava sequences executed in the piece were supported by mature abhinaya, quite expected of a virtuoso of a very high order. The hastas were enough to portray Ram and subsequently the swayambara but “Shira mukuta kundala tilak charu” needs special mention. The vivid lasya elements and the lyrical movements, soft and subtle executed by the dancer as the coy Sita, reminded one of the unparalleled and graceful style of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, and that he is a very worthy son of an illustrious father. But it is not always fair to compare him with his father. During the years, Ratikanta has developed and established an inimitable style and an arresting stage presence that is entirely his own and with paramount confidence. His long list of innovative choreographies is a proof of it and these do not need any elaboration. The Ram-Ravana conflict had a flow of sanchari bhavas, amplified version of footwork ,a good measure of cross-feet stances, flourishes of elaborations and stylised angikaabhinaya and resonating sparks of tandava as Ravana.
As Ram, his vital lyricisms were commendable and evoked response, admiration and adoration from everyone in the audience. The final comeback to the first line, followed by “Jai Jai Ram Siya Ram”, added some elements of Bhakti rasa which is embodied in the imagery of the song in contrast to the Roudra rasa in the conflict. The music was recorded with the thunderous pakhawaj accompaniment by Guru Ratikanta Mahapatra himself! An unforgettable performance leaving the audience wanting for more.