Ode to Odissi
TNIE caught up with Madhulita Mohapatra, renowned Odissi dancer who performed at the Soorya Festival recently.
The danseuse showcased a one and half-hour-long performance at the ongoing Soorya Festival in the capital city recently, along with her team. With her graceful moves, she narrated the Colours of Krishna which comprised various tales of Lord Krishna, like his love for Radha and the origin of his many incarnations.
The danseuse is thrilled to perform on stage after a long lull brought in by the pandemic-induced restrictions. She performed Colours of Krishna for the first time at Soorya Festival. The Odissi recital included six pieces in total and commenced with an invocation and proceeded to Jagannath Ashtakam (praise of Lord Jagannath of Puri who is also a form of Lord Krishna). Apart from Madhulita, dancers Anjali Raj, Aditi Kar, Siri K Reddy, Nandhana Sashikumar and Rajitha Shekhar were also part of the performance.
Madhulita revealed her dancing skills with a solo presentation, Ramate Yamuna Pulina Vane from the popular Sanskrit epic Geeta Govinda penned by the poet Jayadeva. The piece narrated the eternal love of Radha for Krishna.
The piece was choreographed by Madhulita’s guru Padma Shri Aruna Mohanty, and it explored the emotions and concerns of Radha in the presence of a flirtatious Krishna. The performance was followed by Madhurastakam, based on the popular song Madhurastakam, written by saint and philosopher Vallabhacharya.
The team concluded the performance with a group presentation based on a Kannada Devarnama Hari Smarane Mado, written by poet Saint Purandara Dasa in Odissi style. It was a novel visual treat for the audience dancers presented popular episodes where Lord Vishnu took Dasavataras including Narasimha for helping his devotees.
Speaking on the sidelines of her performances, Madhulita expresses her delight in being able to perform at the festival. “The pandemic wasn’t a good experience for us. But we kept our spirits alive through online performances and rehearsals. I performed on stage the last time in 2020. Getting back to it was like breathing again,” she said.
The artist says she chose to perform Colours of Krishna in Thiruvananthapuram as the city is the land of Lord Sree Padmanabha. “The dance repertoire falls in sacred religious themes. And the reason for thematic performances is that it reaches the mass. I have stayed true to the traditional elements throughout the recital. Tales of Krishna is a novel dance exploration, and I hope to perform it in a lot more venues,” adds Madhulika.
The dancer is open to experimenting too. Her former compositions like the love story of Mirza and Sahiba is an example of this. “Honour killing is a hot topic in our society. I want my productions to catch the attention of youngsters, while also being relevant in the current society,” she says.
The dancer has won many awards including the prestigious Central Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar. However, she assures that her experimentations and innovations are not an effort to dilute the purity of classical Odissi dance. Madhulita is also an ‘A’ grade artiste of National Doordarshan (DD National) and an empanelled artist of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). She is the founder of Nrityantar Dance Ensemble which joined her in performing Colours of Krishna.
“I am working on my next thematic production titled Shoonya to Sufi. It’s a work in progress that explores mystical philosophy of Sufism and the journey within towards self-realisation,” concludes the artist.