An ode to Odisha

Shyamhari Chakra
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Profile Ramachandra Pratihari was honoured with the prestigious Jayadev Puraskar Shyamhari Chakra

For over the past five decades, towering theatre personality Ramachandra Pratihari's permanent address has been the historic Annapurna Rangamancha in the temple town of Puri in Odisha and not his home in Harachandi Sahi in the town where he was born and lives at present. Such has been his intimate association and commitment to the best known theatre institution of Odisha.

It was compulsoryfor a male child of any Sevayat family (those who offered services to the Lord) of the Jagannath temple to join the Akhadas (gymnasiums) as per the temple tradition and thus young Ramachandra was initiated into it where he was trained in sword fighting to be able to act in the ritualistic Sahijatra folk theatre festival. He also studied music as a subject in his school days.

And this laid the foundation stone of his career as an actor, singer, music composer and drama director during later years of his life.

When he was barely 15, he joined Utkal Natya Sansad theatre group of Puri as a trainee actor and was groomed there by stalwarts like Balai Chand Banarjee. Five years later, he shifted to Cuttack, then the cultural capital of Odisha, and joined the prestigious Janata Rangamancha as a professional theatre artiste. During his five years of stay at Cuttack, he directed a few plays in Hindi at Modern Natya Pratisthan and proved his potential as an able director that brought him back to his beloved home town of Puri as an acclaimed actor-director for the prestigious Annapura Rangamancha in 1961.

During the next five years, he acted in and directed more than 40 plays like Kalapahada, Buxi Jagabandhu, Kansa Kabata and Badua Jhia - most of which are considered milestones. He also left his indelible imprint in radio plays which were broadcast over All India Radio, Cuttack. He has also essayed impressive roles in about 20 Odia films that include highly acclaimed movies like Nuabou, Bhai Bhauja, Arundhati, Sindura Bindu, Pooja and the Hindi film Char Adhayay directed by Kumar Sahani.

He has also been a director-in-demand for several popular opera parties of Odisha like Sibani Gananatya, Parbati Gananatya and Uttarakula Opera. He has also dabbled in documentary filmmaking capturing the cultural canvas of the ancient town of Puri. The veteran actor-director has been rightly honoured by the State with Jayadev Puraskar, Odisha's highest honour for cinema and the Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi Award apart from scores of prestigious awards, honours and felicitations. The latest feather in his cap has been the prestigious Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award for his pioneering contribution to the field of theatre recently.



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