Every step of the way

Tapati Chowdurie
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INTERVIEW The need of the day is a smart dancer who is quality-conscious and can also connect globally, says Odissi exponent Ranjana Gauhar Tapati Chowdurie


Padma Shri and -Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee for Odissi, Ranjana Gauhar performed at the seven-day-long festival of Odissi in Bhubaneswar recently. Besides being a performer, choreographer, guru and writer, her passion for Odissi has made her produce and direct a number of films, many of which are based on Odissi. “Saundarya Lahari”, a five-episode serial on dance and music based on the “Geeta Govinda”; “Odissi Chandrika”, a six-episode series exploring the origin, evolution and history of Odissi, commissioned by Doordarshan; and “Celestial Dancers in the Temple of Jagannath, Puri: Exploring the Mahari Tradition”, funded by Ford Foundation , are a few of many such endeavours. Excerpts from an interview:

On being fascinated with Odissi, not Kathak, despite being from the North.

My love for Odissi happened quite early in life. Born with a passion to use body language, my quest finally ended when I became a shishya of Mayadhar Raut, who groomed me to be an Odissi dancer. Though I have learnt Kathak, it is Odissi that is my first love.

Today I’m a full-fledged Odissi dancer and I have been performing all around the globe, besides giving lecture-demonstrations, holding seminars and workshops. My love for the subject has made me research the subject and bring out a publication named “Odissi the Divine Dance”, released in February 2007. The book explores the aesthetics of the form, which is a living tradition till date.

On the other gurus who honed her skill in Odissi, and their contribution towards making her a complete dancer...

I have learnt the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra style of Odissi from his direct disciple Aloka Panicker, who has guided me with care in my journey to achieve my goal and fulfil my passion of becoming a complete dancer. I do not belong to any particular gharana nor do I come from an artistic background. I am an ordinary mortal who loves Odissi, and my journey was not without struggle. I’m basically an Oriya born to Punjabi parents.

On the role of her institution Utsav in preparing future Odissi dancers, and their prospects... Utsav has been promoting and propagating Indian dance and music since 1987. Students are trained under my guidance with a structured syllabus, which includes both the practical and theoretical aspect of Odissi. At the senior level they are taught a larger repertoire from the different schools of Odissi. Every year they are given opportunities to travel to different States and overseas for performances and to take part in various festivals.

With whole-hearted devotion and dedication, making it a profession is not ruled out. Those who take it up as a full-time endeavour are bound to be successful. There is a dearth of serious and committed dancers among the young. A smart dancer who is quality-conscious and can also connect globally is the need of the day.

On memorable productions and her role in teaching differently-abled children…

My motto is to highlight Indian values through art and culture. With this aim in view I extend my invitation regularly to senior dancers from other institutions to bring about a standardisation of the dance form. I have choreographed ballets based on mythology, woman empowerment, and environment. Some my memorable productions are “Chitrangada”, “Darpan”, “Chandra Bhaga”, and “Prerna”. I give back to society by teaching differently-abled children to dance and be happy. Some of my productions for them are “Ali Baba Chalis Chor” and “Holi ki Kahani, Bacchon ki Zubani.”

I do not belong to any particular gharana nor do I come from an artistic background. I am an ordinary mortal who loves Odissi…



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