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Artiste dedicated to oja pali, body and soul

- A 64-minute documentary pays tribute to dancer Lalit Chandra Nath who, at 89, still runs a school

Sept. 9. City residents today got an opportunity to enjoy oja pali, one of the state’s rich folk performing arts, in a documentary based on life of folk artiste Lalit Chandra Nath.

The 64-minute documentary, Lyrics with Body and Soul, was screened at Town Club this morning. Nath, 89, hailing from Sipajhar in Darrang district, has devoted his life to performing, popularising and teaching oja pali, an ancient performing art form that shows Assam’s rich traditional and cultural heritage.

Oja pali is a group of chorus singers and dancers. Its performance combines narrative singing and dancing interspersed with dramatic dialogues and actions. It focuses on stories from the epics and the Puranas and associated with goddess Manasa’s worship.

Throughout his life, Nath practised Sukananni Oja, one of the three oja pali dances. The other two are Vyah Goa and Ramayani Oja.

The documentary is directed by Prabin Hazarika and produced by Manoj Kumar Nath.

“The aim of making the documentary is to introduce the young generation to this rich folk tradition. Even at this age, Nath is still working to teach the folk art to the youths,” Hazarika said.

The documentary threw light on how an enthusiast Nath devoted his entire life in popularising oja pali dance braving economic hardship in every step of his life.

Nath was looked down upon by people for practising oja pali as unlike today, the dance form earlier was yet to receive acclaim and respect from people. But it could not deter him. He dropped his dream of becoming a teacher one day to practise oja pali to keep the dance form alive.

For his contribution to oja pali, Nath was honoured with Sangeet Natak Akademi award. On the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore this year, the Akademi conferred Rabindranath Tagore award on him.

In spite of his old age, Nath now runs a dance academy in his house to teach the youths oja pali and Deodhani dance.

“I never learnt oja pali for money and honour,” Nath, who was in the screening programme today, said. He added that it was the duty of people to learn oja pali.

Nath has performed in different parts of the country. Jawaharlal Nehru was fascinated after seeing his performance. Dancer Ram Gopal said he had not seen a dance like oja pali where the same person has to do several body movements.

“It was a nice experience to see the life of a person who selflessly works to spread a folk art form,” a member audience said.