Odissi was his sadhana

He claimed that without his talented wife, Laxmipriya, there would have been no Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. This Odissi dancer and exponent, who became a legend in his lifetime, passed away on April 7.

LEGENDARY ODISSI guru Padma Bibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra died on April 7 at Bhubaneswar.

The 24th Natya Kala Conference organised by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha is dedicated to the revered guru.

Sonal Mansingh, dance exponent and Chairman, Sangeet Natak Akademi, will inaugurate the festival and unveil a portrait of Mohapatra on December 9, 5 p.m.

Here are excerpts from a t�te-�-t�te the guru had with BIBHUTI MISHRA barely a month before his death.

What do all the honours and accolades mean to you?

I accept the honour humbly and am grateful. But they are recognitions for Odissi rather than whatever little I have done for this dance form. But I am not very happy about the state of Odissi today, the dance I nursed in its cradle.

But why?

The form is being polluted in the name of improvisation and innovations and many so-called great dancers are also guilty of this. Besides, nowadays everybody seems to be in a tearing hurry to be called a `guru' and they want overnight `fame.' They forget that it is a lifelong `sadhana'.

But you have also brought in a lot of innovations...

Yes I have. But I have never played to the gallery. I have operated within the basic idiom of the classical code.

On the one hand you have been conferred Padma Vibhushan; on the other you have gone on record to say that the Government has not paid any heed to you?

I have been treated pretty shabbily in my home State. Now that royal patronage has ended, the Government should take care of the artistes and extend patronage but that has not happened.

Personally, neither I nor my institution, Srjan, run by my son, has received any help. My dream of having a school in a sprawling complex remains a dream because no land was allotted.

Talking of awards, the doyenne of Odissi dance Sanjukta Panigrahi could not get anything beyond Padma Shri while others of doubtful merit but with better contacts and lobbying power got even the Padma Bhushan ...

Well I would not like to go into all that. But yes Sanjukta deserved a much higher honour. Perhaps it would have come to her had she lived.

Often, the process is quite slow and it comes very late. But at least she got a Padma Shri. But what has my wife, Laxmipriya Mohapatra got? She was the first female Odissi dancer who brought the dance form to the stage. She is also the one who inspired a whole generation of dancers, but she has remained unsung. Even the State Sangeet Natak Akademi has not bothered to honour her.

Very few people know about your wife...

She is literally my better half and that I realised six decades ago when I danced `Dasavatara' with her at Annapurna theatre and the audience went into raptures. I must say that without her, there would be no Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

Now that you have achieved so much with students everywhere in the world what is left?

I don't look at it as achievement. My dream Odissi gurukul is there.

Then I want Odissi to scale newer heights and I pray that the dance that we established should be preserved. My son Ratikanta is the director of Srjan and my daughter-in-law Sujata, who is a very good dancer, is the principal.

Sanjukta is no longer there. Who do you think would assume your mantle?

To a guru all the disciples are his family members. I hope one of them will shine brightly, may be a dedicated student of mine or my daughter-in-law or even my granddaughter!

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