Saturday, 8 September 2012

An Icon on Stage

On 7th September 2012, I had gone to Rabindra Mandap, the best auditorium in Bhubaneswar, to watch a cultural programme in the memory of the legendary Odissi dancer and Guru the late Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Arriving there, I was pleasantly surprised to know that the great iconic danseuse Vyajayanthimala was to perform there that evening!!! I felt very fortunate about watching the great danseuse perform there.

She started by doing a bhumistha pranam (touching the ground with one's head) before the image of Kelu Charan Mohapatra that formed the background of the stage.

She started with Ganesh Vandana, then went on to present Kirtanam, Abhinaya and concluded with Tarangini. Watching her performance, I felt transported to a different world far away from the mundane life. The auditorium reverberated with joyous, thunderous and intermittent clapping. When she took the final bow, the whole audience gave her a standing ovation. Before exiting, she spoke for a couple of minutes about her last meeting with Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra which happened in Mumbai. At that time he had invited her to perform in Odisha. She said that this had always been in her mind but she could not fulfil it during his life-time. She felt happy to have performed in a programme in his memory. She bowed before his portrait again, before exiting the stage.

The magic in the dance of this veteran is seen to be believed. At 76, she has still the stamina to dance for about an hour! That evening, her sculptural poses, supple torso movements, her flowing arms and the subtle mudras with her fingers seemed to be age-defying!!!

In a brief interview after her performance, she told the Press Reporters that she had dedicated her dance-presentation to Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Asked about being able to dance at this age, she replied that her age was going in its way and she was continuing the practice in her own way.

Born on the 13th August, 1936, Vyajanthimala's first love was dance. She first acted in the Tamil film Vazhkai in 1949. The film was such a big success that it was remade in Telugu as Jeeratham. She was fluent in Hindi also and the Hindi version of this film was made in 1951 with the title Bahar. She never looked back and became a legendary actress. In all she has acted in 63 films.

Then she got married to Dr. C. L. Bali, gave up acting and went back to her first love, Bharatanatyam. She has performed the world over including at the 20th Anniversary of United Nations at New York in 1969. She received the Padmashri Award in 1968. She was given the Honourary D.Litt degree by Annamaai University, Chennai in 1995. She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for her contribution to art.

She has authored a number of books including 'Bonding' where she has beautifully narrated her travels in the world of art.

Watch her divine presentation of Bharatanatyam in this video.

An insight into her views is available in this interview.

Below is a dance by this great danseuse in the 1958 film Piya Milan, the 'Sadir' Devadasi dance of old days, later known as Bharatanatyam.

I thank my stars for being able to watch the presentation of this great danseuse!!!

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