A balance of abhinaya and nritta

Patitapawan Kala Niketan recently presented a shradhanjali utsav at the IHC in Delhi on the 13th and 14th of July as a tribute to Guru Debaprasad Das and Guru Pravash Kumar Mohanty. The lineup comprised well-known names in the Odissi circuit llike Geeta Mahallik, Sangeeta Dash, Sangeeta Mohanty and Pitambar Biswal.

Geeta Mahalik

Geeta Mahallik is one of the finest exponents of Odissi. In 2014, she was honored with the Padma Shri. She is the disciple of Deba Prasad Das and Mayadhar Raut. Geeta’s first piece was based on a Swati Tirunal composition in raag Malika, taal iktaali. It was an ode to Lord Rama, who is addressed as Raghu Ramam, depicting instances from the Ramayana. She started with a pushpanjali and then went on to show the bringing back to life of Ahalya by breaking the spell with a touch of his feet. Rama was the one who broke the famous bow of Shiva. Next, it was the depiction of the kidnapping of Sita. She is shown as stringing flowers in the forest, and she sees the golden deer. Attracted by it, she sends Lakshman to capture it, and is herself kidnapped by Ravana, who comes in disguise. She throws off her ornaments to leave a trail, and the monkeys build a bridge with rocks to reach Lanka. War ensues and Sita and Rama are back in Ayodhya – after an agnipariksha. She ended the piece with the four-armed stance of Lord Vishnu and Lord Padmanabha reclining on the shesh shaiyya. The abhinaya to depict the piece was done with perfection of expressions and movements. The characters of Sita, Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana were dramatized well. The movements of the monkeys building the bridge were especially evocative and skillfully portrayed. The second piece Geeta performed on was in taal roopak, raag Bhimpalasi. It depicted the meeting of Radha and Krishna on the shores of the Yamuna.

Sangeeta Dash

Sangeeta Dash is trained under Guru Durga Charan Ranbir and Guru Debaprasad Das. She has received a fellowship from the Department of Culture, Government of India, and Sanskriti Samman of Delhi. Sangeeta began her performance with a nritta piece, a pallavi in raag Anand Bhairavi. It was excellent technical dance with a very flexible tribhanga, hand and feet movements and expressive eyes. The energy of the leaps and coverage of the stage were excellent. Next, she did an abhinaya piece, an interesting composition where the sakhi is in a mischievous mood. She tells Radha not to respond to Krishna’s call, and to not go to him. She tells her that he steals our clothes while we are bathing and breaks our water pots. She takes hold of Radha’s hand and takes her away with her. Some awesome abhinaya with Sangeeta portraying a mischievous sakhi, a naughty Krishna and a very confused Radha. “Debaprasad Guruji had his own style of abhinaya. I remember, once when I was learning ‘Yahi Madhava’, and a little mistake would prompt a slap from him. “Where are you looking?” he would say. ‘Na ja jamuna’ is a nattangi piece. While I was learning this piece from him, guruji passed away. After all these years, I thought of reviving it. We did the music first and then we did the choreography, so that we keep it as close as we can to what guruji taught us, but we did make some changes, and I tried to portray all the characters,” said Sangeeta.

Pitambar Biswal

Pitambar Biswal presented an abhinaya piece, ‘Kilo sajani’. Radha is in acute pain of separation from Krishna. She is dressing up and adorning her room for the union, but once he does not turn up, in desperation, she scatters the flowers on the bed, opens her hair and is hit by the arrows of Kamadeva. The abhinaya was very mature and demanding, but a bit more of movement could have made the piece more interesting.

 Sangeeta Mohanty

The next piece was by Sangeeta Mohanty in raag Mishrakafi, taal roopak – ‘Kaha lo duti’. Sangeeta’s movements showed a lot of flexibility and a perfect tribhanga. Radha, on hearing the flute of Krishna, gets attracted to him. In this piece, the nritta was almost done to perfection, with leg lifts etc. The execution of the peacock dance was especially beautiful.

The performance ended with a Suryashtak, a group performance led by Sangeeta and Rajnikant Mohanty, with some skillful stances and formations depicting the emanation of the rays of the sun and the Sun God riding on his chariot with his horses. The nritta had some difficult leg lifts. 

Note: Pics were provided by the organizers of the event.