Odissi ballet Dance

Legacy reinvented

Grace personified

Grace personified  

Debi Basu recreated the magic of Kelucharan Mohapatra ’s ‘Geeta Govindam.’

More than four decades of living in Mumbai has not changed the attitude of Debi Basu, the senior Odissi exponent who strongly feels that Odissi must maintain the madhyam-gati (medium-pace) and lalitya (fluidity) that her guru and mentor legendary Kelucharan Mohapatra had taught her. Her dance, disciples and choreographies give ample proof of her conviction that dance happens within the soul and never with the body alone.

Debi Basu’s recent presentation of Geeta Govindam Odissi dance ballet in Mumbai proved why and how her Guru’s style need not change. Her venture to bring back the much marginalized ballet genre of Odissi on stage through this two-hour long production for the prestigious annual dance festival hosted by Sri Shanmukhanada Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha. “The ballet was produced three decades ago by my Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and presented in the Festival of India in Russia. I was a part of the troupe. It had generated a rave response. I thought of re-staging it in loving memory of my Guru,” she reveals.

Debi Basu retained the structure visualized by her Guru. However, as a creative artiste having a mind of her own, the flavor was, obviously, different. The ballet eulogized more of the spiritual elements of the astapadis than the human sentiments of love, longing, pain or despair. As the director of the production, she interpreted Geeta Govindam as the magnum opus of prem-bhakti that sings the union of the atma with the paramatma – the union of the Soul with the Supreme – through love and devotion.

For the modern day audience, who are less exposed to Sanskrit, she incorporated elaborate narrations in English that helped them follow the interpretations of the ten astapadis she used in the ballet.

Set designer Tapan Basu along with light designer Wrik Basu magically transformed the stage into the beautiful Vrindavan. The sprawling stage-space was intelligently divided into three different stages in order to show different actions happening at the same time at different locations. While the idol of Lord Jagannath on one stage constantly highlighted poet Jayadev’s divine submission to his muse – the Lord – while composing Geeta Govindam; the beautiful ambience of Vrindavan, where the gopis danced in praise of their Krishna with intense passion and devotion, was recreated with the aesthetically crafted cut-outs of treeto form a perfect backdrop.

The serious and soulful renditions of the astapadis were marvellously interjected with refreshing pure dance numbers depicting 'raas' by the sakhis that broke the monotony.

Commencing the narrative with the ‘Shrita Kamala’ sequence that describes Krishna’s beauty and valour, the 10 most familiar astapadis that the ballet covered included ‘Basante basanti’, ‘Rase hari miha’, ‘Lalita lavangalata’, ‘Mamiham’, ‘Dheera sameere’, ‘Natha hare’, ‘Pasyati disi disi’, ‘Yahi Madhava’ and the concluding ‘Priye charushile’.

While Debi Basu essayed the character of Jayadev, her senior disciples Anu Narayan were cast as Radha while Sangeetha Rajan was Krishna. The other artistes in the ballet included Archana Basu, Sujatha Nair Sanjay, Roma Mondal, Mamta Biswas, Neelambaree Prasad, Swati Apte, Upasana Talukdar, Monaswini Mohanty Sahu, Raakhi and the youngest troupe member Sansita as the little boy Krishna. The dancers did justice to the characters. But, Debi Basu. was outstanding with her striking stage presence and intense emoting.

The live music was the soul of this production. With compositions by the three late legends of Odissi music – Balakrushna Das, Bhubaneswar Mishra and Raghunath Panigrahi – the music magnified the appeal of the production manifold. The elegantly designed costumes too contributed towards the visual appeal of the ballet.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:34:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/Legacy-reinvented/article16992526.ece

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