Odisha's Kesha Pradhan, who changed landscape of folk theatre

Hailing from Padampur in Bargarh district, 64-year-old Pradhan retired as the principal of Anchal College in his hometown but theatre has always been his forte.

Published: 27th October 2019 10:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2019 10:43 AM   |  A+A-

Kesha Ranjan Pradhan

Kesha Ranjan Pradhan

Express News Service

It  is Kesha Ranjan Pradhan’s ‘The Loo’ that gave a fresh lease of life to dying folk drama tradition of Western Odisha. The coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi award - announced on Friday - on the eminent theatre artiste for his immense contribution was only a matter of time.

Hailing from Padampur in Bargarh district, 64-year-old Pradhan retired as the principal of Anchal College in his hometown but theatre has always been his forte. Apart from being popular as a playwright and director, Pradhan is also known for reviving theatre in western Odisha through his organisation ‘The Loo’ which has taken folk drama to places beyond the State and across the country.

Talking to Express, Pradhan said he founded ‘The Loo’ in 1993-94 to expand the reach of drama. “During the period, drama was a city affair. People in remote areas believed it was meant for the elite and they cannot participate in it,” he said.

In order to dispel this misconception, Pradhan wrote and directed several plays in the local dialect and these were performed by artistes from villages like Khuntpali, Katapali and Sohela in the district. “At that time, theatre was a low-key affair and there was no need to spend on stage setting. Rather than the stage, artists and theme created the whole ambience.”, he recollected.

With drama reaching out to the masses, ‘The Loo’ could dig deep into the culture of the land through its plays. Since the folk culture of western Odisha is robust, the groups could pick up several new things during their performances in the villages and amalgamated those in the future plays. Following this, they also represented Odisha at several drama festivals.

At present, there are around 30-40 active drama groups in western Odisha. Pradhan is credited with giving a new identity to ‘Dhanuyatra’, which started from Bargarh and is now celebrated in villages also.

As he continued his journey with ‘The Loo’, Pradhan mentored several aspiring youth artists. While some of his students got into Bharatendu Natya Academy and National School of Drama, others received fellowships including Rajiv Gandhi and Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) fellowships.
Pradhan himself received a senior fellowship in theatre from the Union Ministry of Culture. Though he seemed subtle even after such an achievement, Pradhan said there are several senior artistes who deserved to be awarded. He dedicated the honour to dalits and all disregarded artistes who have immense talent in the field of art, music and drama but are subjected to social discrimination.


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