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The Rediff Special/Sonal Mansingh

April 13, 2004

'Guruji never knew he was great'

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra is no more. But it does not sound real to me and to so many of his disciples, admirers, and friends because such people are eternal. He was one of those personalities who seem to go on for ever. It is unthinkable that he is no more.

But such is life. His art, greatness, life, way of teaching, way of performing, his humility, attention to detail, his affection, and, above all, his demands as a teacher, all these qualities will stay in the minds of his disciples for a very long time to come.

He was a very important factor in shaping the renaissance of Odissi. It is up to us now to carry his mission forward.

I first met Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in June 1965 in Cuttack. I was introduced to him by my late father-in-law, Dr M Mansingh, Oriya poet-scholar, when Kelubabu was teaching at the Kala Vikas Kendra in Cuttack. I was put under his tutelage to learn Odissi despite the fact that I was then already a well-known exponent of Bharat Natyam.

My discipleship did not last too long and we parted ways in 1972 because he was unhappy with the breakup of my marriage. But while it lasted it was a beautiful, enlightening, and enriching relationship. The relationship continued through ups and downs. Those five or six years were so packed with experiences, performances, travels, stories, learning and composing together.

I introduced a lot of new things to Guruji's repertoire, which used to be simple at that time. We decided that Odissi's repertoire should be widened. A lot of the composition and choreography that he did for me have now become staples of the Odissi repertoire of the Kelucharan Mohapatra style.

His death cannot be described in words. All I can say is that I feel a terrible sense of loss. We had our ups and downs. I managed to bring him around and we had a warm relationship and I would send my gurudakshina [teacher's tribute] and he would tell his students that if they want to learn gurubhakti [devotion to one's teacher], then they should learn it from Sonal.

Sonal Mansingh, danseuse and chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, spoke to Onkar Singh.

Photograph: Avinash Pasricha | Image: Uday Kuckian

The Rediff Specials

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Sub: My Homage

Homage to the great exponent of Art. It is these humble lovers of art who work for art rather than for money that makes the ...

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