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Strung together

Manjari Sinha |

The India International Centre (IIC) presented Tantu, an evening of Odissi dance by Madhur Gupta, at their main auditorium this past week. Tantu, conceived as the thread that strung together various dance numbers from the traditional Odissi repertoire, was conceived by Madhur Gupta, an able disciple of Guru Sharon Lowen.

A graceful dancer with a slender body, Madhur attracts, first of all, with his personable stage presence. The well-groomed dancer started his dance lessons earlier with Kathak, but soon, realising his inclination and passion towards Odissi, switched over to learning this classical dance style under Guru Madhavi Mudgal at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. He also learnt for a little while at Rudraksh Odissi Dance Centre, Bhuvaneshwar, before coming under the tutelage of Guru Sharon Lowen, who groomed Madhur with much care, helping him grasp the lyrical grace of Odissi. He mastered the distinct Chauk and the three-bend Tribhanga, along with the technique and Abhinay of Odissi dance style.

Kuchupudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy were there as chief guests, to bless Madhur along with many other dignitaries in the jam-packed hall. Tantu opened with the Saraswati Vandana "Manikya-Veenam upalalayanti…" as Mangalacharan, the classic choreography of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, composed in ragas Malkauns, Bageshri and Durga respectively. Madhur named the Pallavi that came next "Rajanigandha", based on Raga Kedar, he choreograph himself. Then came the Abhinaya numbers in the Odia song "Jhagadi matra hela he Shyam…", the Jha Champu from the Champu Kavya so especial to Odia sahitya and the Sanskrit Shlokas from "Kumar-Sambhavam" of Kalidasa, imaginatively interspersed with the Arabhi Pallavi, both choreographed by Guru Sharon Lowen.

Then came "Yahi Madhava, yahi Keshava…" Jayadeva's Ashtapadi, depicting the Khandita nayika, choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, where Madhur impressed with his restrained Abhinaya of the Uttam Nayika, who takes care of her dignity even after getting immensely annoyed with her beloved noticing the tell-tale marks all over. The concluding Mokshya, titled "Shantam", was choreographed by Guru Madhavi Mudgal.

Guru Sharon Lowen deserves kudos for grooming and showcasing the talent of such a disciple. There was the desired aesthetic ambiance and ample variety in the dance repertoire strung to the Tantu. Madhur regaled the audience with his captivating dance that had lyrical grace, flawless technique, emotional Abhinaya and of course an arresting stage presence. He had the musical support of a melodious orchestra, comprising Prafulla Mangaraj on Mardal, Prashant Behera,'s Vocal, Lavanya Das on Sitar, Partho on Flute and Vishvanath on Manjira.

No doubt it was a brilliant performance but Madhur should remember that he has a long way to go. He should be careful against the "ego" that comes stealthily as a "Vivadi Swar", or an unwanted element, that spoils the art. He could have easily avoided giving this feeling by not adding his own composition in the presentation, which had choreographies of Gurus like Kelucharan Mahapatra and his own Gurus Madhavi Mudgal and Sharon Lowen.