Ratikant Mohapatra’s aesthetic choreography and the skilful performers made ‘Geetamritam,’ a spectacular production.

Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, director of Srjan, is not only an ace mardala player and a celebrated dancer but also a choreographer of high degree. Srjan’s latest production, ‘Geetamritam,’ mounted as the grand finale of the 19th Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar, surpassed all his previous compositions.

Productions on ‘Bhagavad Gita’ ‘Geetopadesham’ and its discourses, especially the ‘Krishnarjun’ context have been choreographed innumerable times by various artists, but this one was undoubtedly different.

Extracting the essence of ‘The Song Celestial’ and garlanding the performance text with dance, music, narration and chants of stotras and slokas to find the exact balance between facts, aesthetics and grace is truly the ‘amritam,’ which is only possible for a virtuoso like Ratikant with his rigorous training, intellect, study, discipline, stagecraft and choreographic foresight.

The truth

The man in material perplexities is he who does not understand the problems of life. The ‘Bhagavad Gita’ for that matter Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjuna to fight against his kinsmen (which he is not ready for) on the battle field is the gospel truth directed at all mortals to understand the position and purpose, the philosophy of life and path to salvation.

Krishna is the Super-soul, the Order of the Universe-the Supreme being but Arjuna is an ordinary man and the Lord’s medium. So he will act as Krishna wishes! This momentous situation of Arjuna in the battle field is symbolic of man’s tryst with life. The choreographic nectar of the performance flowed through an elaboration of the Odissi vocabulary of already familiar steps. Their effects quickened the vision, to unfold the beauty of a succession of pictures painted to enhance the ability to grasp the theme of the composition and then luxuriate in every moment and every posture of the highly trained dancers.

After the invocation to Lord Jagannath and chanting of ‘Prajwalita Gyanomayo Pradipa,’ the audience was awe-struck with the grand entry of a horse-drawn chariot complete with the wheels (actually the gathered frills of the lower part of the costumes), comprising of 11 dancers moving forward with athletic steps and unbelievable harmony. Not a limb, not a torso or neck movement disturbed the imagery of the moving chariot. The golden light projection ushered in the rising sun - the beginning of the day of blood-shed! The dancers then converged gradually to form a tree, with steady hasta-mudras depicting the leaves, under which Rishi Vyasa was writing the epic. The visual imagery was unforgettable!

The stage with an elevated platform at the back enhanced the choreographic appeal as the dancers lined up in two parts - the Kauravas and Pandavas, face to face - ready for the battle.

The conversation of Krishna and Arjuna embraced the elements of the dance form mainly the hand gestures and abhinaya.

Ratikant’s neat choreography and the music at this point were able to distinguish between dance and drama, to present the ambivalence between them powerfully through definite challenging movements.

‘Pashyami Bisheshwararupam’ was presented with stunning choreography and clarity of forms with dancers at the back and Krishna and Arjuna in the forefront. Lifting Girigobardhana showed perfect symmetry, not a finger moved or was out of place.

Ratikant is a worshipper of forms and his attention to the alphabet of the form and choreographic geometry, seemed to have made him look at beauty as a self-sufficient object. Hence, the competent and well trained dancers were extremely well-rehearsed and the performance was impeccably executed.

Bijaylaxmi Satpathy as Arjuna was a competent and powerful dancer. Rajashri Praharaj has sound training but has to work on her facial expressions to portray slokas such as ‘Yada Yada hi Dharmasya’ ‘Sarvadharmat parityajyam’ and ‘Karmanye Vaadhikaarastey’ with impact.

There were no character-costumes, attires were kept simple in peacock blue and white, being the symbolic colour of Krishna and peace/wisdom.

The soaring score by Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra, Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi and Satyabrata Katha (who lent his voice too) with vocal support by Rupak Parida was moving, with a fine blend of traditional and electronic orchestration. Even though one missed Ratikant’s solo mardala accompaniment, the music compensated for it. The script and Sanskrit renderings were by Nityananda Mishra and the fascinating light design was by Jaidev Das and Devaprasad Mishra. Everything about this production was spectacular and wonderful.