Dancer Madhavi Mudgal talks about her passion for Odissi and influence of her guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

She is a celebrated dancer who has mesmerised the audience with her talent and elegance.

Her expressive eyes and a disarming warm smile add to her natural grace and poise. One of the leading exponents of Odissi, Madhavi Mudgal carries forward a long legacy of Indian classical dance and music.

Daughter of Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya, the founder of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in New Delhi, she started imbibing various art forms at a very early age. “Before I knew anything, I was dancing even though my parents were musicians. Growing in an environment surrounded by great names formed my sanskar. To create anything within a traditional framework, sanskar is very important,” says Madhavi Mudgal during a fleeting visit to the city.

Trained in Kathak and Bharatanatyam, she found her true calling in Odissi under the tutelage of the legend Kelucharan Mohapatra. She explains, “It was the subtlety, lyricism of the dance that I liked most. It has my kind of expressions.”

Talking about the evolution of Odissi , she explains that it was her Guru who have gave the framework to the dance form and revived the art, post-Independence. “Guruji choreographed and restructured Gotipau and Mahari tradition culling from the old and sculptural legacies and formed the framework of Odissi that is practiced now. Now Odissi is on par with the other Indian classical dance forms,” she explains.

The Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee explains that it is the strength of the art form that leaves its indelible mark whenshe performs abroad. “It is the art form and not the artiste that reaches out to the audience. It reaffirms my faith in the wonderful legacy which is evolving with each generation leaving rich possibilities.” A purist at heart, this danseuse is however, not averse to experimentation. She points out,

“When guruji created his pieces in the '60s they were contemporary in expression. There is nothing wrong with innovating when it is done within the realm of traditions. One can maintain the purity of technique and still innovate.s.”

However, her exuberance and dedication is palpable when she talks about her guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and learning under him and carrying forward his legacy is what she cherishes the most. “My greatest asset is being his shishya. He literally created and formulated what is Odissi today. He was traditionalist with modern insights. I was lucky to be a part of his creative imagination,” she gushes. Apart from being a solo performer, she also teaches at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya,which is a centre dedicated to popularise Indian classical dance and music. “Learning Indian art forms shape the personality of a person. Experiencing the essence of the art is more important than becoming a professional. The ability to immerse ourselves in the rasanobhuti is a great thing. It is these art forms that define our identity as Indian. We need rasikas.”

She insists that being with her students motivates her to innovate. She states, “I tell my students that it is a long journey before they can perform on stage. It is a holistic training and they should have patience and not seek instant gratification.

The audience needs to be sensitised to Indian culture and art and therefore I take my role as a teacher very seriously. We need to inculcate the love for art and culture in the next generation with the right values.”