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Odissi artistes bat for art form

- War of words follows Sunanda Patnaik comment

Bhubaneswar, Dec 24: A day after The Telegraph published a report of vocalist Sunanda Patnaik expressing discontentment over the deteriorating culture of Odissi dance and music, voices of discord were heard from different sections of the state’s performing arts fraternity.

Patnaik had reminisced about her warnings to Odissi exponent Kelucharan Mohapatra that the music his dance was based on, had no parents.

Mohapatra’s Odissi dancer son Ratikant feels that as an Odia, it is unfair on her part to criticise the exponents of the classical art form. “I am too young to argue with Sunandaji. But instead of appreciating our efforts, she always discourages us. Our gurus have given us a set of guidelines and whenever we compose, we refer to it. If we merge Odissi with the contemporary, we call it neo-classical, not Odissi. So, there should not be any problem,” he said.

Patnaik had said that the defilement of the art forms forces her to abstain from such recitals.

Noted Odissi dance Aruna Mohanty said: “With due respect, I would like to say that I have never seen her watching any live performance during my 40 years of dancing. Moreover, I do not see what is wrong about incorporating beautiful things from other allied dance forms. Changes in Hindustani music over the decades have only enriched it. Similarly, the brighter side of Odissi dance needs to be encouraged.”

A renowned Odissi musician, on condition of anonymity, went to the extend of questioning Patnaik’s contribution to Odissi music. “If she feels we have only tasted packaged drinking water and not the waters of Ganga and Jamuna, she must not forget that we drink the holy waters of Mahanadi. She too grew up on these waters,” the person said on the doubts expressed by Patnaik on the credibility of those teaching Odissi in the state.

Though Patnaik’s allegations may not have gone down well with the crusaders of culture, she also finds artistes seconding her.

Pandit Damodar Hota, an eminent musician and a contemporary of Patnaik, said: “Though I feel that she herself has not followed Odissi music keenly, she is partly right in saying that many musicians today are demanding classical status for Odissi music without having any idea about the real format of udra padhati, the ancient system of music of our region that they are now calling Odissi music. They are only practising hybrid Odissi music since the institutes they are trained from and now are training at, Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, never had proper teachers of udra padhati sangeet. Our form of music is by birth classical, and these musicians of younger generations are only craving for publicity while knowing nothing about the intricacies of our music system.”