The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Odissi ballet, without right leg

Bhubaneswar, June 1: Orissa’s Nityananda Das has done a Sudha Chandran on one leg.

The 31-year-old Odissi dancer, who lost his right leg in a crash, announced his comeback on Sunday with a 20-minute ballet that left the audience asking for more.

“I just wanted to tell everyone that I am back,” said the youth who was performing after a five-year break. “I had to tell everyone that the loss of a leg didn’t kill my spirit.”

Das’s comeback ballet on one leg at Rabindra Mandap was aptly titled Pangu Langhayate Giri (Even the disabled can scale mountains). Sudha had scaled hers ' with an artificial foot fitted below her knee ' with the Bollywood film, Nache Mayuri.

The youth from Bhadrak district began learning Odissi at Bhubaneswar’s Odissi Dance Academy under guru Bimbadhar Das in 1991.

He excelled quickly, choreographing over 150 jatras and 100 plays. But things went horribly wrong on June 11, 2000, when he crashed his bike on way to his native village Bideipur.

With doctors in Bhadrak hospital and the SCB Medical College in Cuttack delaying the operation on his right leg, it turned septic. Then there was no option left but to amputate it.

Over one-and-a-half years after that, he was bedridden. But his guru would constantly egg him on to take the dance floor again.

“I used to be very depressed thinking what I would do. But my elder brother Dolagobinda and my guru kept up my spirit,” Das said.

Sudha’s comeback ' he had watched Nache Mayuri five times before the crash 'was also an inspiration.

But while Sudha had lost her leg knee downwards, Das had his entire right leg amputated.

Besides, Sudha had managed to get an artificial leg fitted. Das, however, began dancing again on one leg. Although it was painful, Das kept at it and went on to set up a dance school, Kalashram, where he trained young students.

But it was Sunday’s performance that was the winner.

“It’s a unique act. I am sure nobody in India has ever danced on one leg,” said Bollywood choreographer P.V.S Ramarao who helped Das with the ballet.

Odissi guru Gangadhar Pradhan dubbed him “a beacon of hope” for Odissi that is under threat from modern dance forms.

“He was too good. For some time, I had difficulty believing he actually didn’t have a leg,” said Raseswari Mohanty, who had come to watch the ballet.

As for Das, his confidence is sky-high.

“When I would lie in bed, several people discouraged me saying my career was over. But in my mind, I knew it was a matter of time before I took the dance floor again.

“Today, I am far stronger and can’t be cowed easily.”

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