Traditional art will always remain

Dedicated to her art Arushi Mudgal   | Photo Credit: S_SIVA SARAVANAN

Not many get a chance to dance in the presence of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. But 12-year-old Arushi Mudgal was lucky. She performed a solo piece in 1999 at Brazil.

“It was my first trip abroad. It was quite an experience to perform in guruji’s presence.” He was a true genius, but he was great fun too, says Arushi. “He would mimic so well! He was hilarious. He also loved playing video games and watching cinema.”

At the green room in Vivekalaya school, the danseuse sits, shorn of adornments, wearing a simple sari and a smile that reaches her kohl-smudged eyes. She has just finished a lecture demonstration, organised by SPICMACAY. The children sat engrossed, as she explained the different postures to them. “Each dance style has its own body postures, curves and bends. Many of the Odissi ones are derived from the temple sculptures.”

She showed them the Tribhang, the signature stance in Odissi, where the dancer bends her neck, torso and knees. “It is like waves, flowing and rounded.” Arushi also introduced the students to different instruments used in Odissi such as the Veena, Pakhavaj, and the flute.

She asked the children to identify the birds and animals as she enacted the movements of the peacock and butterfly “Dance is a universal language. Using your facial expressions and gestures, you can communicate the story to the audience.” She told the children that initially the form of dance was practised by the devadasis who danced in temple courtyards.

Arushi performed key episodes from Krishna’s Bal Leela; where he vanquishes Kaliyan, duels with the demons and lifts up the Govardhan mountain. “The most popular text used in Odissi dance is from Gita Govinda by Jayadeva. Pieces from Odiya literature also find its way into the dance.”

The students had plenty to ask her with their questions ranging from the ornaments to the style of dance. The session wrapped up with the final question - Will Odissi stand the test of time against the popularity of mass culture. Arushi said there is a reason why these art forms have survived for centuries. “Even if it goes away for a brief period of time, it will come back. The artistes should reach out to the youth. And, organisations like SPICMACAY must ensure that everyone has a chance to be exposed to good quality art.”We continue this discussion in the green room. Arushi says Odissi has a lot of takers abroad. “Earlier, dance forms like Bharatanatyan were more popular. Many foreigners are learning Odissi professionally now.”

Arushi grew up listening to classical music and watching classical dance. Art was in the very air she breathed. She took her Odissi training at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, set up by her grandfather Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya in 1939. She woke up to the sounds of ghungroo and tampura. She was trained under her aunt, Padmashri Madhavi Mudgal.

Arushi has collaborated with a lot of international groups, such as ‘Haveli’ where musicians of different genres come together. Another project was ‘Orfeo - Crossing the Ganges’, an Indo-Italian opera, ‘Swadesh’ with Mythili Prakash and Monisa Nayak and ‘Sama’, a contemporary work with the French percussionist, Roland Auzet that toured successfully over two years in Switzerland, France and Taiwan.

Around 50 artistes from Europe and four musicians from India were featured in the Indo-Italian opera. “And, I was the only Indian dancer. They used the Indian mythological angle, where the heroine visits India. I was the suthradhara weaving together the different episodes of the story.”

She has also teamed up with the musician-duo Sikkil Gurucharan and Anil Srinivasan for a video shot by Tamil cinematographer, Divakar Mani, who is also her husband. “We choreographed a Tamil padam called ‘Theruvil Varano’. The dance style is not specific to Odissi. I am doing some abhinaya and movements. Divakar wanted to create something totally unique.” The video is available on YouTube.

Gandharva Mahavidyala helps people to get a foundational training in the classical arts. Every year, youngsters in their 20s queue up at their gates to learn Odissi. “The desire to learn the traditional art forms will always remain. There will be other influences as well. However, the excitement is momentary. Finally, you will want to come back to what is truly yours,” she smiles.

And, there is experimentation in the sphere of the traditional art forms, she says. “There is a lot of freedom within the boundaries. It is not limited at all. And, what good is freedom without any boundaries? It is more exciting and challenging when you are working within the structure.” And, no art form can survive without being porous to changes. “It is like water that will stagnate if you don’t let it flow. You must allow changes to seep in.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2021 2:49:22 AM |

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