Four decades of relentless pursuance of Odissi dance has made Ranjana Gauhar surrender to its transcendentalism. Years of experience have gotten etched into her mind. It has been the most liberating feeling.
A large part of this journey that she undertook was with the guidance of her teachers, two among whom left an unforgettable mark. They were Mayadhar Raut and Kelucharan Mohapatra, both legendary Odissi exponents in their own right.
While she learnt to dance from the former, the latter’s association enhanced her being.
As an ode them, she waves the flag of Guru Shishya Parampara high with Saare Jahan Se Accha, a presentation that upholds this age-old tradition, which is one of a kind in the world.
It’s not every day that you see both the teacher and disciple share the same platform to showcase their talent. “The audiences should be able to see the new generation of custodians of our classical repository,” says Gauhar, the Founder-President of Utsav, a Delhi-based dance academy.
In its 14th edition, this year will see Odissi, Kathak, Mohiniyattam and Satriya. On day one, a creative dance drama has been organised that is march off from the way Odissi dance is usually portrayed. Titled Khud Mein Kabir, Kabir Mein Hum, it consolidates abstract gestures to foster a new kind of idiosyncratic engagement.
The thought of using Kabir as a muse wasn’t exciting for Gauhar at first. Her mind tossed between several storylines. However, to make an informed decision, she began reading about him. “I was besotted by his life once I learnt about him. Every piece of the literature revealed his modesty and humility.
He was an illiterate man who went on to become a revered poet. Today he is the subject of PHDs. Isn’t that just amazing?” she gushes.
Her piece will display things Kabir has re-inspired in her such as the power of love, peace and surrender.
And the calmness is apparent in the way she speaks about him, softly and slowly. But ask her, her age and there is sudden tension in the conversation. “Why is that important?” she says taking a few seconds to find the equilibrium in her voice. “Artists are ageless. Just like dance, we are eternal at heart,” says Gauhar.
In the last four decades, she has seen how Delhi, her home, has become discerning. “But people are still not willing to pay for classical entertainment. Why that’s the case, I don’t know, but I hope I will one day,” she says. Before it’s not too late.
Saare Jahan Se Accha: August 13-14, at 7 pm, Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road.