Odissi: Kumkum Lal - Priye charusheele rehearsals and Tokyo workshop
Director: Ashok Lal
Duration: 00:24:24; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 79.925; Saturation: 0.072; Lightness: 0.407; Volume: 0.279; Cuts per Minute: 15.408; Words per Minute: 35.038
In this recording, Kumkum and Guruji rehearse priye charusheele in her Tokyo house. The second clip is from the workshop Guruji conducted for her students. They learnt a pallavi and he set a verse from the Abhinaya Darpana to dance.
Kumkum Lal has been a disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra for more than four decades. Her initial training in Odissi was under Guru Harekrishna Behera, and she has also studied and performed creative dance with Narendra Sharma, and Chhau under Guru Krishna Chandra Naik. She has taught English at Delhi University. She was a keen reviewer of dance and has acted in plays. She has worked with Sangeet Natak Akademi as the head of their dance section and was awarded a senior fellowship by the Indian government to work on a Sanskrit treatise on Odissi.
Kumkum was close to her students in Japan – they were, in a way, her window into Japanese culture. She was more proficient in the language, compared to her husband Ashok, only because she had to teach Odissi using Japanese phrases. It was a hybrid exchange – her students learnt the Devanagari script when they wrote lyrics from the Gitagovinda and she learnt Japanese in ways that she cannot forget. Students from Japan still visit her in India; it is not uncommon to find her teaching them in a mix of English and Japanese!
Here, her student Ranjana Dave converses with her as they watch these videos again, while reminiscence and hindsight come together. The years Ranjana spent learning from Kumkum were full of invaluable dancing, enriching conversations on all and sundry, and much relief from hostel food.
Translations of all the ashtapadis seen here have been adapted from 'Sri Gitagovinda' (trans. Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, Gaudiya Vedanta Publications, Mathura, 2005) with inputs from Kumkum Lal.
Kumkum Lal spent four years in Tokyo, Japan, teaching and performing Odissi extensively. In 1986, with her husband Ashok, she hosted Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (Guruji) and a group of musicians including the renowned composer Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra, from India, for a month. During his stay there, Guruji taught Kumkum and held workshops for her students. Kumkum and Guruji also travelled across Japan, holding lecture demonstrations at universities and performing in different environments.
Kumkum: Even in the room, he is performing to an audience. We had to perform this together. We performed 'Yahi madhava
' and 'priye charusheele
' together. Several times.
This tune of priye charusheele
has been composed by Raghunath Panigrahi.
This is Krishna's song. Radha is angry and Krishna must placate her. There are two or three songs that Krishna sings directly - for instance, ma miyam
and priye charusheele
. This has the famous line 'dehi pada pallavamudaram
' - give me your feet to decorate my head with. Legend has it that Jayadeva could not bring himself to write such a blasphemous thing about a god he worshipped. So he went to have a bath. In the meantime, Krishna visits his home disguised as Jayadeva, eats the lunch Jayadeva's wife has made for the real Jayadeva, and writes 'dehi pada pallavamudaram
'. When Jayadeva returns, he asks for his lunch and is surprised to hear his wife say he has already eaten. That is when he realises that Krishna has written what he couldn't write himself.
Kumkum and Guruji stand adjacent to each other, enacting the roles of Radha and Krishna. In the background, we see a closed door. At ease in the cramped space, they dance in the narrow gap between the bed and the door. Manjul is seated on the bed with her harmonium, Bhubaneswar Mishra is on the floor, his back resting against a chest of drawers. Sudarshan sits on the sofa next to the bed. Ashok Lal is somewhere in the room, mostly near the camera.
sphurad-adhara-seedhave tava vadana-chandrama
...your moonlike face
Your moonlike face makes the chakora bird of my eyes anxious to drink the nectar of my lips.
Filmed in 1986, on a VHS camcorder by Ashok Lal, the husband of Kumkum Lal. The setting is an apartment in Tokyo. The doyen of odissi guru Keluchan Mohapatra and musicians from orissa stay up late into the night choreographing new works, that will soon become key parts of the odissi dance repertoire.
Oimachi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Breaking out of an engaging moment, Guruji corrects Manjul when she repeats the same line. Kumkum takes a few seconds to step out of the character of Radha.
(Break in recording)
Bhubaneswar Mishra is standing as he observes Manjul playing. Guruji sings 'dehi
' a few times to help Manjul understand the exact tonal shifts. Later, Mishra takes over. Sudarshan and Guruji are sitting on the sofa.
Guruji recites the opening bols of 'priye charusheele', setting the laya by clicking his fingers. Manjul starts singing all over again.
Vadasi yadi kinchidapi dantaruchikaumudi
sphuradadharaseedhave tava vadanachandrama
If you speak to me, even a little, the shining moonbeams of your teeth will dispel the terrible darkness of fear within my heart.
Your moonlike face makes the chakora bird of my eyes anxious to drink the nectar of my lips.
Seated on the sofa, Guruji starts dancing as Bhubaneswar keeps the tala by clapping his hands.
Ashok Lal is heard changing camera modes.
Kumkum: This was performed by Sanjukta Panigrahi for the first time in the late 1960s or the early 70s. It is a very simple construction - very simple choreography. Guruji has not had the opportunity to elaborate it because not many people perform it - that is why it hasn't been resurrected very often and there are no complexities of movement. It is a beautiful composition.
Kumkum: Guruji is revising it for himself. He had such power of concentration. In the middle of such chaos, he could work with a smile on his face.
What this verse describes is - to your trembling, moon-like face, my eyes are glued, like the chakora bird that hankers after the moon, to breathe the nectar from your lips.
Tvam asi mama bhusanam
tvam asi mama jivanam
tvam asi mama bhava-jaladhi-ratnam
bhavatu bhavatiha mayi satatam anurodhini
tatra mama hridayam ati-yatnam
You are my only ornament
You are my very life
You are the jewel in the ocean of my existence.
Therefore, always remain favourably disposed towards me - my heart continually strives only for the sake of receiving your favour.
Kumkum: You are my only ornament, you are my very life. Radha is taken to be Lakshmi here. He uses these images - analogies that express how inseparable they are. He is the fish and she is water. He is like the bee drawn to a flower. The lamp and the light. In the surrender of his flute, his melody, he tries to show Radha that she is very special. Lakshmi is the pearl of the ocean, just as Radha is to Krishna. May you always be in my heart, inside my heart, he says.
(She reads out from a translation)
May you be here, constantly, compliant to me. 'Anurodhini
' means compliant. That is what my heart wants.
Kumkum: The effects of Cupid's poison will be negated - the choreography shows those effects, how Krishna's body burns with desire. On my head, as an ornament, place your bud-like feet.
Ranjana: Shibu da (Ratikanta Mohapatra) once told us how Guruji's manner of dressing was connected to how he would teach his students. When he taught at Odissi Research Centre in Bhubaneswar, his students learnt to judge his mood from what he wore. If he was well-dressed, with a rudrakshya mala or two, wearing a kurta, dhoti and a gamcha, no teaching would happen - he would mostly talk. It was only when he came running in - dhoti flying, clad only in his vest, that they knew they were about to have a serious class. When he was in that mood, he spared no one and the dancers had to be prepared for a hard day.
smara-garala-khandanam mama sirasi mandanam
dehi pada-pallavam udaram
jwalati mayi daruno madana-kadanaanalo
The devastating effects of Cupid's poison will be alleviated when you place on my head, as an ornament,
your enchanting feet that resemble fresh buds.
Guruji sings 'Dehi
' again because Manjul is singing it differently. Bhubaneswar Mishra also steps in to help.
Guruji gets back to dancing.
The camera focuses on the area behind Manjul, where Kumkum's student Jocelyn and her partner are sitting.
Kumkum: That is Jocelyn; she now lives in Hong Kong. Her partner was an acupuncturist who treated me when I pulled a muscle in my hip. His name was Abe-San. He's the one sitting next to her.
Guruji again stops to correct the emphasis placed on syllables in 'haratu tad-upahita
Ashok Lal changes his location, and the camera is now to Guruji's left. The armchair he seems to be sitting on is occupied by some discarded clothes too. Behind him, clothes hang from hooks in the wall. There is a table between two armchairs, dominated by a lamp, among other things. On a patch of empty floor beside it, we see a bag with an airline tag and a briefcase.
Kumkum: There was hardly any place in the bedroom, but we loved these late-night sessions. In one room, everyone found their place - to sit and sing, or play the flute, or dance, in Guruji's case.
(Break in recording)
Guruji vocalises a section of instrumental music that is used to conclude 'priye charusheele
'. He looks into the camera just before the recording ends.
Community hall, Tokyo, Japan
Guruji teaches Kumkum's students Shankara Pallavi in a community hall. Most of them are wearing half sarees. Their shoes are neatly lined against one wall. Seen here are Asako, Kaoru, Jocelyn and others, many of whom Kumkum is still in touch with. Asako later moved to California, doing important Odissi work in the Bay Area and collaborating with other dancers. She died after fighting a long battle against cancer in 2007.
He finishes a tihai, making them repeat the steps slowly before performing the whole section at a faster pace. Many of them sing along as they dance. They are amused by the speed of his movement and their inability to keep up. They begin practising the last section of the pallavi.
Kumkum or Manjul also seem to be singing the ukuta with Guruji.
Guruji has his trademark gamcha
on his shoulder.
Kumkum: Guruji did a workshop with my students - he taught them Shankara Pallavi and also composed 'angikam bhuvanam yasya' (from the Abhinaya Darpana) for them. This was the community centre where I took dance classes. My students would rent the hall themselves.
Some of them even came to India to train later -Asako and Kaori. Asako is the one in the red sari, in the first row, and Kaori is the one in yellow.
They were such a dedicated lot!
Guruji tells the tired students that they will stop in ten minutes. Manjul seems to be singing, because Guruji addresses the singer formally, using the term 'boliye
'. Guruji holds Asako's forearm as she completes a movement. He pays a lot of attention to her in this part of the video. The camera darts around the room, catching different people in movement. They finish a portion of the pallavi and meander off to rest; Guruji pats Asako's cheek as she walks away.
The one in the blue sari, right at the back, was a very good designer. Then there is Edith in the white pants; she never travelled without her lovebirds! Jocelyn is the one in the black shirt, also at the back.
Kumkum: Is that my voice? It might be Manjul.
Kumkum: Guruji had this way of making everyone feel special.
Oh, also, that's his trademark gamcha
- he would do everything with it!
As he talks to someone in Oriya, presumably Bhubaneswar Mishra, Guruji takes his gamcha
off his shoulder and wipes his face. The camera goes back to the dancers. Asako is revising a particular movement. Guruji walks back towards them and makes them practice the steps for 'dho kita kiti taka
They go over the penultimate section of the pallavi
again, as Guruji demonstrates each step. They begin to go over the section themselves, as Guruji walks around correcting movements and poses.
Kumkum: And he was always at ease - he could communicate himself so simply and effectively.
Guruji and Kumkum rehearse parts from 'yahi madhava'
Kumkum: We were probably rehearsing after the workshop. And if I'm looking at the time, it must be late or I'm tired!
Kumkum, from her pose depicting Radha's agony at Krishna's deceit, turns her head suddenly, presumably to look at the time.
In the glass panels lining the walls, we can see some of Kumkum's students leaving after their session with Guruji.
For the first time, in the video, as Guruji talks to Bhubaneswar Mishra, the camera turns to where the musicians are sitting.