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Guru Kelucharan, the doyen of Odissi dance
April 07, 2004 22:51 IST
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, 79, who died in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday following a brief illness, took Odissi dance before the world stage in the 1970s.
Guru Kelucharan, born on January 8, 1926 at Raghurajpur, Orissa's famous village of art near Puri, had humble beginnings.
He took to dancing at the age of five and four years later joined the 'Gotipua Akhada' of Balabhadra Sahu in his village.
Chintamani Mohapatra, his father, did not like the idea and packed him off to the 'Rasa Leela' party founded by Mohan Sundar Dev Goswami in Puri.
Along with several other trainees, Guru Kelucharan learned the art of abhinaya, percussion playing, singing and stagecraft.
The troupe used to tour for six to seven months a year and the shows were an amalgam of song and acting on the theme of 'Krushna Leela'.
Guru Kelucharan had to work as a labourer in betel vines for a while after leaving Goswami's troupe. The struggle continued and he landed a job with a theatre company run by Kalicharan Patnaik in Cuttack at a salary of Rs seven per month.
He was required to set the stage, act and play percussion instruments.
Guru Kelucharan worked with the Annapurna 'B' theatre group of Cuttack from 1946 to 1952, distinguishing himself as a dancer, percussionist and choreographer.
His big break came after a solo piece in a dance drama on 'Devi Bhasmasura' he performed under Guru Pankaj Charan as's direction.
Guru Kelucharan portrayed the role of 'Nataraja' while Laxmipriya, who was to become his wife later, performed the role of 'Mohini'. From that day till they wed, they remained partners in all duets.
The pair became famous under the guidance of Guru Pankaj Charan and Guru Durlav Chandra Singh, for their performance of 'Dashavatar' dance dovetailed into the legendary Oriya drama Taa Poi.
The couple left the troupe, married and returned to Puri, where they did some research on the 'Mahari' and 'Gotipua' traditions of Odissi dance. The effort found creative expression in his first Odissi composition for the role of 'Kalavati', played by Laxmipriya in the Upendra Bhanja play staged by Annapura 'A' group theatre of Puri.
Guru Kelucharan, now regarded as a teacher in Odissi, joined the Kala Vikas Kendra of Cuttack in 1953, the state's first college of dance and music, which also added a course in Odissi in its curriculum.
It was here that he, along with Guru Pankaj Charan, Odissi scholar Dhirendranath Patnaik and a few other exponents, formed the 'Jayantika' group, which worked hard for five years in the late 1950's for codification of the grammar of Odissi dance.
Guru Kelucharan taught at the KVK for about 15 years when students like Sanjukta Mishra (she later became Panigrahi), Minati (Mishra) and Priyambada (Mohanty-Hejmadi) learnt from him.
All of them were to become famous in their own right later.
During these years, he choreographed a number of dance dramas in Odissi style, which included Panchapushpa, Krushna Gatha, Geeta Gobinda, Urbashi, Krushna Leela, Sakhigopal, Konarka and Sri Kshetra.
In the process, his own style was taking a distinct shape.
In the 1980's, after leaving KVK, he started visiting different cities to teach and spread the Odissi dance form and became a regular visiting faculty member at Delhi's Gandharva Mahavidyalay, Mumbai's National Centre for Performing Art and Kolkata's Padatik Dance Centre.
He was later associated with the Odissi Research Centre in Bhubaneswar and contributed towards the codification and systematisation of the Odissi style.
Guru Kelucharan set up 'Srjan' in 1994, a dance academy he ran with the help of his dancer son Ratikanta and daughter-in-law Sujata.
He was awarded the Padmashree in 1975 and Padma Bhushan in 1989. The Padma Vibhushan was conferred on him in 2000. He also won the Kalidas Award of the Madhya Pradesh government in 1987 and Shankardev Award of the Assam government in 2001.
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