Odissi: Kumkum Lal - Second performance at Studio 200
Director: Ashok Lal
Duration: 01:42:26; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 73.031; Saturation: 0.251; Lightness: 0.473; Volume: 0.221; Cuts per Minute: 1.035; Words per Minute: 29.069
Summary: 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.
Two of their performances were at Studio 200, a performance space (ostensibly named thus because it seated 200 people). Studio 200 was part of the Seibu Department Stores in Ikebukuro, a shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo. The performances at Studio 200 featured most of the pieces they performed during their tour of Japan. This performance is probably one of their longest in Japan, at one hour and forty minutes. It features Mohana Pallavi and Batu Nritya, not performed elsewhere during the tour, apart from Kuru Yadunandana, performed by Kumkum and duets in Yahi Madhava and Priye Charusheele, where the neat storyline explains the estrangement of Radha and Krishna and their subsequent reunion.
The recordings at Studio 200 are distinguished by their equal emphasis on the verbal description of what is performed. In both clips, after the mangalacharan and pallavi, Kumkum takes to the stage several times as she explains ashtapadis from the Gita Govinda in detail and participates in structured conversations with local specialists of Indian culture. It is probably the ‘avant-garde’ nature of the space and its intimate capacity that makes the performance part staged act, part lecture demonstration. Unlike the lecture demonstration at the university, where Kumkum mostly communicates by herself in a mixture of English and Japanese, here, most speech is translated into Japanese by others. While explaining the ashtapadis to her audiences, there are instances where her interpreters must perforce pause and blush as they find appropriate words to articulate what Kumkum has just said.
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.
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.
The second performance at Studio 200 in the Seibu Department Stores at Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
Seibu Department Stores, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan
Guruji (Kelucharan Mohapatra) starts playing the mardala as the others accompany him, in a prelude to the first stanza.
This is the first stanza of Jagannathastakam, ascribed to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Manjul sings it here.
Kadachit kalindi tata vipina sangeeta kavarau
Mudabhiri nari vadana kamala swadamadhupa
Jagannatha swami nayana pathagami bhavatu me
At one time, in the forest on the banks of the Yamuna, that resounded with music,
In joyous ecstasy he would be found, like a bee sucking nectar, at the lotus lips of the gopis.
Now all the other gods worship his feet.
He Jagannatha! May you be the object of my vision.
Guruji recites the bols that precede the dancer's entry in mangalacharan
This is called Jagannathashtakam - eight stotras in all. It refers to Jagannath, who is now on the coast of Orissa, but at one time, he was in the forest of Vrindavan. 'Kadachit' means 'at some time', in the past, you used to be at Vrindavan, where you used to drink nectar from the lotus lips of the gopis, just like a bee that hovers over a flower. The rest of the sloka is mostly descriptive, in present tense, but this is recalling his past - that at one time he was there (Vrindavan).
Kumkum walks downstage before dancing the bhumi pranam.
Bhumi pranam - Salutation to the earth, asking to be forgiven for stamping on it.
Kumkum leaves an offering of petals by moving downstage. The flower offering is sometimes made to the idol of Jagannatha that is placed on the stage, which is absent here.
Ranjana: At this time, was it not necessary to place an idol of Jagannath on stage?
Kumkum: That was something that Sanju (Sanjukta Panigrahi) started doing. It was already in use then. I didn't usually put it because I felt I address the dance to the audience and not to him (check with K).
Vandana, a verse in praise of the deity or figure being invoked during the mangalacharan.
The following verse/ sloka is from the Abhinaya Chandrika of Maheswara Mohapatra, a medieval text on Odissi dance. It is a common sloka, generally referred to as Ganesh Vandana.
Kalpavriksham tala sthitam
Uma putram mahakayam
Tandava priya putraya
Tandava priya rupinam
Namo chintamani nityam shuddha buddhi pradayakam
I salute the one who rises over obstacles,
The one who is to be found at the base of the Kalpavriksha (a mythical tree),
The son of Uma, the big-bodied one,
The tusked one, the one who is proficient in dance,
The son of he who loves tandava,
The image of he who loves tandava,
I salute thee, the one who bestows pure thought.
Kumkum: It's a little blurred.
Ranjana: That's perhaps due to the light.
Kumkum: She says 'dantikam', which should actually be 'dantinam'.
Ranjana: Why is it used that way everywhere?
Kumkum: In the Abhinaya Chandrika, it is called 'dantikam' but the correct word is 'dantinam'.
Kumkum: I think this was towards the end of the tour.
Sabha pranam - A rhythmic piece of dance with the hands mostly in Anjali hasta, the sabha pranam ends with trikhandi pranam, a set of three salutations, where the dancer pays her obeisance to the divine, the guru and salutes the audience, specifically in that order.
Kumkum exits as the sabha pranam ends and the camera moves back to focus on the musicians as the stage is darkened before the next piece.
In mangalacharan, this part has very specific pranams. The first one is taken to be for the 'sabha', but I don't think that's really for the sabha (the dancer transcribes a circle in space with the hands in anjali mudra). That is meant for the gods and divine beings. Then there is a pranam for the directions and then one meant for the audience (the sideways pranam that is preceded by the first 'goithi' or quick stamping of the heels).
(Break in recording)
Bhubaneswar Mishra starts playing Raga Mohana. Guruji recites the bols that precede Mohana Pallavi.
Kumkum enters and circles the stage before positioning herself at the centre.
Tala Triputa - 7 matras
The ukuta includes slight variations in some phrases.
Ranjana: You haven't done Mohana during the rest of the tour.
Kumkum: How well Guruji has played the mardala here!
Tihai: a set of three identical phrases that mark the end of a rhythmic fragment.
(Ta jhenu ta jhenu ta jhenu ta jhenu tari kita kukundari) x3
Ranjana: Did Guruji teach you these pallavis?
Kumkum: I learnt most of these pallavis through Harebabu (Harekrushna Behera). He was my first teacher.
(Ta-jhenu ta-jhenu ta-jhenu tam
) x3] x2
Dho-kadataka-na-kadataka-ta-kadataka-ta-gadi-ghene ta-kadataka-ta-gadi ghene dha, ta-gadi-ghene...
The last portion of the pallavi, unhurried and back to a steadier pace.
Kumkum: This is a big departmental store and they had a small experimental space in the store.
Ranjana:Oh! How did you chance upon it?
Kumkum: Our impresario arranged for it. She located all the venues for us.
Kumkum finishes with a final tihai before she covers the stage again and exits.
Short round of applause. The compere is now on stage, addressing the audience in Japanese. She seems to be introducing the various styles of Indian dance.
(Break in recording)
Kumkum is now back on stage. The woman who spoke earlier is nowhere to be seen; a man stands in her place. Kumkum is seemingly explaining something to the audience, but she is inaudible because she does not use a microphone. Someone steps on stage to hand her one.
Kumkum: ...just arrived now in India these days.
The man standing next to her translates.
Kumkum: We are very lucky today to have Sri Bhubaneswar Mishra also with us, who has composed all the music that you will listen to today. And he is considered the architect of Odissi dance music.
Kumkum: And Manju is doing the vocal music and Sudarshan is doing the...
(Japanese translation) Kumkum is interrupted.
Kumkum: What you have seen just now is one section of classical Indian dance, which is known as 'nritta' or pure dance, which does not have any song or interpretation in it.
Kumkum: I'm now going to perform the other section known as 'abhinaya', in which we have a song which we try to interpret for you and we try to communicate to you the essence of the feeling in the song.
Kumkum: Ah...the purpose of all Indian dance is communication, and communication of the essence as I told you, which is called rasa. Rasa, it literally means juice, of the whole story.
Kumkum: The song that I shall do to you has the rasa of sringara or love.
Kumkum: I went to Japan right after our stint in Bombay. I was quite active in the workshops and classes that we organised there. I got all my paperwork done there - the passport and visa were made in Bombay. I remember going to the photo studio to have a photograph taken, and I was wearing earrings I had borrowed from a girl named Jeroo.
Kumkum: We made Guruji's classes at NCPA happen. Earlier Protima (Protima Gauri-Bedi) had tried to organise something at the Bhulabhai Institute, but it became a regular event once we brought it to NCPA.
One year we did Ramayana and she wanted to be in it. It was decided that she would play Ravana. She was a very great sport!
Kumkum: This song is taken from a Sanskrit work called the Gita Govinda written by Jayadeva in the 11th or 12th century - 12th century.
Kumkum: This Gita Govinda consists of a string of songs which tells of the various shades in the loveplay of Krishna and his consort Radha, sometimes there is union, sometimes there is agony of separation, sometimes the longing and sometimes the fruition or fulfilment of love.
Kumkum: The way the composition is and the way the words come - the syntax can change everything, because in Sanskrit, wherever the words are placed, the overall meaning remains the same because the meaning is contained within the word. But when you translate it the syntax changes and the original order of the sentence also changes.
Kumkum: It's the last song of the book and it tells of the fulfilment of love.
The scene is that there has been a night of love and Radha is now confident because she has pleased Krishna and she is confident of her love and she almost orders Krishna to do certain services for her.
The other speaker is now back. She takes the mic from Kumkum so that she can use both hands to demonstrate.
Kumkum: The basic line is - 'kuru yadunandana chandana shishira tarena karena payodhare'
The meaning is - O Krishna...
Kumkum: Krishna is the lord who plays the flute. This is the flute; this also stands for Krishna (demonstrates).
Kumkum: Do, o Krishna, make a paste of musk and paint my breasts. This was a form of make-up in ancient classical times. She says, paint my breasts like the creeper, or like a leaf.
Kumkum: Or like flowers. So this is the basic line. But...
Kumkum: But we repeat this line many times. And...so that we will create the atmosphere of this song.
Kumkum: This is...in our songs, each line is repeated many times and different ways of presenting the same feeling...
Kumkum: We have ten fingers on our hands and we can make many many formations...
Kumkum: Some of the meanings are very pictorial and clear
Kumkum: This is a flower, this is a fish, and this is a bird. This is also a bird. And this can be a cow's face, or a deer's face. But these are pictorial. And these are symbolic. Like this a man. Like this is a woman. So this would be an embrace.
Kumkum: This would be embracing and kissing. This is also kissing.
Kumkum: This is (uses the Japanese word) fighting or enemity.
Ranjana: When did you learn Kuru yadunandana?
Kumkum: I may have learnt it in 1971 or 72. That time, I was staying in that lane next to Kamani. At that time, he came to Delhi and stayed with me for a month or two. That is when he taught me this item. Yahi madhava - he taught me that when we were learning Odissi at Mr. Khosla's flat. Mr. Khosla was a widower.
Ranjana: When did you have your manchapravesh?
Kumkum: In 1971 (when she was 24).
Kumkum: But this is love.
Kumkum: This is - the make-up is beautiful.
Kumkum: It wins my heart. Beautiful delight.
Kumkum: This is - scissors. This is - crooked. But this is eye. So, same symbol - same hand.
Kumkum: Radha says that her eyes are as beautiful as bumblebees.
Kumkum: Even more than the bees, the bees are nothing compared to her eyes.
Kumkum: And this line over here, near the eyes, is like the cupid's arrow. But that has got rubbed because of his kisses. So please brighten my eyes again.
Kumkum: The hair has become...flies like a flag, because of this love, the flower has fallen from the hair. Come, and make my hair again. And make it as beautiful as a peacock.
Kumkum: My beautiful hips...are the caves of delight. But my bells have fallen down. Come, put it over here. So, please try to follow this.
The translator starts speaking with renewed exuberance. He bows and makes as if to step off the stage.
After a night of love, Radha has teeth marks all over her body. Her breasts are still sore from embracing her lover. Her body is weak from the release of excessive joy. Her hair is dishevelled, her curls shaken out. Sweat glistens on her cheeks. Her lower lip, which is usually as radiant as the bimba fruit, looks drawn. The string of pearls that braided her hair are now lying scattered all over.
Kumkum: This is all so terribly erotic!
I think the sanchari is completely Guruji's creation, what he has visualised. It does not particularly pertain to the framework created by Jayadeva.
Kumkum ends her explanation and exits. Both the other speakers step off stage, wear their shoes and go to their seats. The lights dim.
Music begins. Bhubaneswar Mishra is playing the violin.
Break in recording. Kumkum is sitting on the floor and is somewhere in the middle of the first stanza.
Kuru yadunandana chandana-shishiratarena karena payodhare
O yadunandana, with your own hands more cooling than sandalwood paste, (make) on my breasts
Because in this line chandan (sandal) is also mentioned, most people think that the designs on her breasts are to be of sandal paste. But what she actually means is - chandana sisira - with your hands that are as cool as chandan; she is not only asking that he should decorate her breasts, but also that they will be soothed by the cool touch of his hands. So it is only the quality of chandana that is being attributed to his hands. The quality of that tactile sensation will be an extension of these pleasurable activities.
The same line is expressed in different ways. First she asks him politely.
However, the action here means 'cooler than chandana'. How do you show something cooler than chandana? By showing dewdrops...
And the painting on her breasts is done by musk paste.
Then with confidence - with the first finger, tarjani. This is not a polite gesture, used for those who are lower than you. But she is now the swadhinbhartrka nayika. No, not even the dew is as cool, she says,
Then with shyness - Kuru, what is the appropriate way to deal with Radha, brought to this state by your passion, with her hair lying dishevelled? Her lower lip bleeds from the delicious pressure of your kisses.
In Radha's retelling, Krishna makes a gesture of subservience, and begins to grind the paste of musk he will put on her, clearly not used to the act of grinding. He takes the paste and applies it to her breasts. This is how you should be behaving now, says Radha to Krishna.
Then there is a pose, with Radha languorously taking her hands upwards and exposing her bosom.
Kumkum: In the first line, you're just saying 'do with your hands like this, on my breasts...'
And then in the second line (mriga mada patraka...) you say, 'do what? paint designs.' Actually, the two lines should be taken together.
Kumkum: Guruji has used a lot of poses here. There is one in which she has her hand under one breast.
The whole thing was composed with a scholar. Whenever Guruji worked with a scholar, he has never gone wrong.
Kumkum: I changed my position here but Guruji remains in the same position when he performs this, with the kneees flanking the breasts.
nijagada sa yadunandane
please paint leaf patterns in musk (upon my breasts), which are like the auspicious pitchers of Kamadeva.
Thus Radha spoke, while playing with her beloved, the delight of her heart.
Kumkum: They always break the word saying 'kamatra'. They're creating meanings which don't make sense. This happens in several places; sometimes there is a printing error that gets standardised over a period of time and you will hear all the singers singing the same thing, which is actually wrong.
Radha says - Mriga mada - the substance found in the navel of the deer, is sweet smelling. With that, paint creeper like designs upon my breasts. Draw the leaves, the creepers, and then the five flowers that make up the panchabana, on the breasts which are like the auspicious pitchers of cupid.
Kumkum: The word 'manobhava' means love. It is connected to the rest of the line, but again the singing cuts it off. The same thing happens to 'patrakam', which becomes 'patra kamatra' the way the rhythm goes. 'Mangala kalasa' could also mean various things. Pitchers are a symbol of victory, so this line could refer to the victory of Cupid over Siva. Siva reduced Cupid to ashes for disturbing his penance. But Rati, Cupid's wife pleaded with Siva and it was then allowed that Cupid would continue to exist as ananga, one without a body. He can live without a body because he is churned in the heart, in the 'mana', and his power is manifest in the energy of the heart and what happens to the body subsequently because of the heart.
Manobhava is one who is born of the 'mana'. Manmatha also means the same. Even 'manoj' means born of the 'mana'. Exists without the body and born of the mind.
Pitchers are symbols of plenty and hence auspicious, which is why one is always supposed to keep pitchers full. Another definition of the victor could be in the making of the patrakam design on the pitchers of love which are Radha's breasts; thus she establishes that she is the victor over him and he belongs to her. The pitchers are also compared to breasts. Radha's breasts are those of a young woman, firm and hard, and breasts of young women are often compared to the fruit of the bel tree.
Radha is a mysterious character. If one were to look for references in mythology, we do not really emerge with a concrete understanding of who Radha was. The genealogy of Krishna can be traced to the Bhagwat Purana. In the Bhagwat Purana, there is no mention of Radha, except as one of the many gopis. This Radha is Krishna's aunt. All the gopis are married women. All literature till the Gitagovinda did not emphasise on Radha. In fact, Ankiya Nat and other theatrical traditions which draw on the Bhagwat Purana have no mention of Radha. Only with Gitagovinda does she begin to occupy an important place. I think it has something to do with the coming of bhakti rasa. The longing for the lord and the parallels it has with the longing of a lover for their beloved - this came into the picture with Krishna in the Gitagovinda.
Now, in many places, Radha is taken to be older than Krishna. Is she an older relative now? In the first verse of Gitagovinda, Nanda asks Radha to escort Krishna back through the dark forest because Krishna is younger and is scared of going back in the dark. If he's that sort of person, scared of the dark, how is it that he makes love at every corner and turn in the dark forest? (laughs)
'Sahodare' means 'like', it expresses the simile.
'Nija gada sa' - is where she shows shyness after making demands of Krishna. 'Hridayanandane' is an epithet of Krishna.
tvad-adhara-cumbana-lambita-kajjalam ujjvalaya priya locane
nijagada sa yadunandane
My eyes release the arrows of cupid; the kajal on my eyes has been smudged by your kisses. Please make my eyes shine with this kajal, this kajal that eclipses the dark beauty of a swarm of bumblebees.
Thus Radha spoke, while playing with her beloved, the delight of her heart.
The lampblack/ kajal that shames even the cluster of bees in its lustrous appearance, the eyes are from where the arrows of madana emerge, in the glance and also in the drawing out of the eyes with lampblack, giving an arrow-like appearance.
One mistake in the singing is - 'alikula ganjanam anjanam' is the correct form; where does the 'sanjanakam' come from?
Your kisses have smudged my kajal; please make my eyes shine again, he priya.
She pulls him towards her and embraces him.
There are different classifications for hair - the small curls at the hairline, the mass of hair.
My beautiful hair, Radha says, do it up. The hair is likened to the chamar and dhwaja of Kamadeva. The chamar is the flywhisk and the dhwaja is the flag.
Mama rucire cikure kuru manada manasija dhvaja camare
rati-galite lalite kusumani sikhandi-sikhandaka-damare
nijagada sa yadunandane
O you who gives respect to others, do up my hair, which fell loose as we made love; my hair which is like the whisk of Kamadeva's flag. It is more captivating than the plume of a peacock; please decorate my charming hair with flower blossoms.
There is a rati-rath associated with Kamadeva, the flag flies on this chariot. This is the movement used to describe the chariot.
The first line actually describes the hair. The flywhisk is the hair on the tail of a Himalayan cow. The bushy tail of the chamar - that is what Radha's hair looks like. Frizzy, wild, the strands don't stick to each other. The rati-rath is a common symbol for Kamadeva; I think it also appears in 'sakhi he'. And the flag on the chariot contains a fish, which is a symbol of fertility.
She says, comb through my hair with your fingers and tie it up. Make a snake-like plait.
Shikhandi means a peacock, shikhandika is the tail and the tuft of the peacock, and daamare - beautiful. My hair which is as beautiful as the plume of a peacock, the chamar and dhwaja of Kama, has come loose during rati - loveplay; as you embraced me and kissed my flower-like mouth. The shloka in Vasanta Pallavi also uses 'shikhandi'; it refers to the tuft of peacock feathers that is used to tie a bun. So it can refer to peacocks in various ways.
She offers her hair to him and she looks at him using the mirror on the ring she wears.
Sarasa-ghane jaghane mama sambara-darana-varana-kandare
mani-rasana-vasanabharanani subhasaya vasaya sundare
nijagada sa yadunandane
My full hips are like the cave of the passionate elephant who is cupid. These beautiful hips full of rasa, decorate them with a waist belt, clothes and ornaments.
Thus Radha spoke, while playing with her beloved, the delight of her heart.
'Sambara darana varana'. Varana means elephant - sambara darana. Sambara was the demon who was destroyed/ darana by Pradyumna who is an embodiment of Kamadeva. A kamadeva in the appearance of an elephant. The destroying - darana, refers to the war of love, where the war of love takes place. The movements are of fighting but the mudra is of love. The word itself refers only to kamadeva. But, in this, he is showing the fight of love. They are referring to the cavern of the demon - which is the hip in this case.
She holds her waistbelt, places it on her waist and asks Krishna to come and help her tie it.
This is also a pose that is in Konark.
This part was added later - Radha folding her hands in front of Krishna was not part of the original composition.
Guruji begins to play with renewed energy
He begins to recite a set of bols as Kumkum enters.
The first part of Batu Nritya draws on poses from temple sculpture and simple steps to depict four musical instruments used to accompany dance - the sitar or veena, flute, mardala and manjira.
Kumkum: Batu after Kuru yadunandana? That's strange!
Kumkum: This used to be a very charming item when it was shorter.
Ranjana: Shorter than this?
The dancer starts with basic square poses that bring out the linear beauty of the feet and hands in chowka.
This part of the dance has motifs of sringara, with the dancer looking into a mirror as she decorates her hair with flowers and colour.
Kumkum: This is the new version of Batu. There is an older Batu which I learnt initially. I was party to the whole change. Guruji was going through the process of sorting out the style and making it more 'classical' in the sixties. He wanted the footwork to match the bols. Every syllable is beaten out by the foot here.
Ranjana: This happened across items?
Kumkum: Others had melodies; but this is one item that had only bols.
The ukuta is played on the harmonium as Guruji's bols become prominent and central to the piece.
Kumkum sits down and traces a circle with her foot. This is followed by a tihai, a rhythmic fragment that is repeated thrice.
Ranjana: You use a very wide chowka. Now Shibu da (Ratikanta Mohapatra) prefers to have his students use dvimukhapada, which creates a very narrow chowka with the ankles touching. When I asked him why, he said that the style was refined as years went by and that is how the chowka got smaller. But I also remember Jhelumtai (Jhelum Paranjape) telling me that if the chowka is wide the dancer has to 'sit' properly (execute a deeper bend) or it won't look nice. She said that some dancers wouldn't sit low enough and their footwork didn't look as good; that is why Guruji would suggest a smaller chowka to some of his students.
Kumkum: There can be bigger and smaller chowkas. The smaller chowka is used for complex footwork because it's not possible to do that in the bigger chowka.
Rhythmic portion, with bols enunciated by Guruji.
Kumkum traces diagonals, travelling upstage and downstage.
Manjul starts singing the ukuta at a faster pace but stops midway.
Guruji's bols are accompanied by the violin and the flute. The piece ends with more than one tihai.
Kumkum: I think this was called Seibu - the department store chain. There were these small avant-garde performance spaces used for international performances too.
Kumkum exits. Applause.
She is then seen sitting on stage, covered by a shawl.
A man speaks in Japanese, making eye contact with the other compere and Kumkum. He puts a question to her, initially holding the mic closer. For a while, she is completely inaudible and can only be seen lip-synching.
Kumkum: Whenever I spoke on stage, I rarely prepared for it. It just came spontaneously. It also helped that I was also curious about everything, so I learned a lot.
Now she holds a microphone. What she is says is constantly layered by an immediate Japanese translation and is hence indecipherable in parts. The passages below are part-summary and part-transcript, meant to reflect the general nature of the discussion.
Kumkum discusses the various types of abhinaya, codified when dance and drama fell within the same prism. There are four types of abhinaya - angika, aharya, vachika and sattvika. Angika abhinaya is a physical expression of emotion using the various body parts. Aharya abhinaya is brought to the fore by the attire and jewellery of a dancer. Vachika abhinaya, the verbal element, does not figure in dance directly, but is represented by the actions of the musicians. Sattvika abhinaya delineates eight emotions that are 'real' in their psychophysical effects. Perspiration, horripilation, shivering or fainting out of shock are some of them. It is heartfelt; it is the most important aspect of abhinaya.
The purpose of Indian dance has been to achieve ecstatic bliss. Art as a means of attaining nirvana or moksha through evoking rasa and being immersed in it. At that point of ecstasy in rasa, one experiences fleetingly the possibility of becoming one with god.
Over the centuries, the dance has been honed and polished by various scholars. The dance is regulated by certain factors, like rhythmic cycles, and there are certain things one does not do, like moving the hips. These are things which are part of a style.
Guruji created several new compositions, always keeping to the rules prescribed by older sources. In abhinaya, sanchari, the repetition is where the choreographer has the licence to create. You can interpret the same thing in several different ways. She cites an example - how Krishna can be depicted in many different ways according to the context. She talks about sanchari in Kuru yadunandana, explaining the compositional tools that Guruji can use to creat sanchari, which means 'expansion'. She says a choreographer is a skilled individual because s/he must be able to maintain the same mood through a whole passage of sanchari. Not many teachers are that creative, she opines. She says that Guruji's Gita Govinda is a classic piece of choreography.
Then she goes on to explain the setting for Yahi Madhava. The moon has gone down and Krishna has not come yet. And when he comes in the early morning, looking bleary-eyed and sleepy because he has been awake with the other woman all night as Radha waited and pined for him, she tells him to go back to her and refuses to listen to his crooked tales. He tries to make excuses but she is unrelenting. She sees a black mark on his red lips. That is because he kissed the eyes of the other woman. Krishna then makes an excuse, which is sanchari because it is not in the text but has been incorporated. Krishna says that he went to a tree and partook of its black fruits, which stained his lips. Go away Krishna, Radha says. On his chest, she sees the nail marks of the other woman, marks inflicted during loveplay. He thinks of an excuse and says that he went looking for a flower to place in Radha's bun and was hurt by thorny bushes during his search for the perfect flower. She implores him to go away.
Then in the next song, Priye Charusheele, Krishna is feeling repentant and he tries to flatter Radha. You are the best of all of them, he tells her. If you were to smile, the dark fear in my heart would be dispelled. You are my life and you are my jewel. Like a fish in the water, like a flower and its scent, like a lamp with its light - he uses these analogies to establish Radha's indispensible position. The last line of the composition is famous; here Krishna says - put your lotus feet on my head. This line stands out because Krishna is divine and not expected to touch the feet of another mortal. When Radha hears this, she realises her mistake and asks for forgiveness.
Saying this, she makes a half-bow as she gets up and walks off the stage as it is cleared for the rest of the performance.
The female compere makes a short announcement in Japanese, regarding the next item. The camera then shifts its gaze and returns to the musicians.
The music is not heard for a little while. Voices are heard in the dark.
'Yahi madhava yahi keshava ma vada kaitava vadam
' from the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva
Kumkum: When I had first learned Yahi Madhava, there was no entry. I would be sitting like a vasakasajjika nayika and then the song would begin. This is like an 'evolution' in Guruji's items; a lot of the abhinaya items had an entry added to them later.
Kumkum: Because clandestine meetings of lovers usually happen after dark, she comes with a lamp. She looks through through a latticed frame but cannot see him. He is nowhere in sight. She is now leaning on the door of the kutir and looking for him but he hasn't come; she goes off to sleep while holding on to the lintel. When she wakes up, she sees that it is the fourth and the last prahar of night. The moon has gone down but Krishna is not here yet.
Ranjana: The choreography contains a wealth of architectural detail, some of which took me back to my elementary art and architecture classes at university. 'Gabakshya', a beautiful mudra with the hands at right angles and the fingers splayed, is specific to Odissi. It is used here to depict the trellis through which Radha first peeks out as she waits for Krishna. Perhaps emboldened by her despondency, she moves to the door and looks out directly, holding on to the door for support and falling asleep before she awakes with a start.
Kumkum: Guruji plays the entry on the mardala and then comes on stage to dance with me. For this program, Shibu (Ratikanta Mohapatra, Guruji's son) was supposed to come too, but he changed his plans at the last minute. Bhubaneswar Mishra is strumming his violin in tala to provide the beat.
Kumkum: Radha hears Krishna come. The morpankh (peacock feather) has fallen from its perch on his head. In its place, a woman's earrings dangle from his head. Krishna knows he is guilty and cowers, waiting for her next step. Radha then sees how his natwari has been replaced by a woman's veil. She is immensely saddened. She burns with the agony of jealousy and anger.
Kumkum: He has been awake all night, she says; his red eyes prove that. Having stayed alert all night, he now finds it difficult to keep his eyes open. He rubs his eyes languorously and stretches lazily, trying to stay awake and keep his eyelids from droooping. Even now, she says, his eyes are bursting with love for that woman he has spent the night making love to. Hari, hari! She laments, even as she falls down in distress. Go away Madhava, Kesava, she implores angrily, please do not speak these crooked words to me.
vahati nayanam anuragam iva sphutam udita-rasabhinivesham
hari! hari! yahi madhava yahi kesava ma vada kaitava-vadam
tam anusara sarasiruha-locana ya tava harati visadam
Having kept awake all night, your tired eyes now droop persistently,
Your eyes have turned red from feverish lovemaking; even now, your thirst for her is visible in your eyes.
Hari! hari! (exclamations) Go away Madhava, go away Kesava, do not speak deceptive words,
Go to the woman who can take away all your sorrow.
Kumkum: Go to the other woman, she says sarcastically, but don't tell me all your lies.
Kumkum: Performed solo, this song requires constant shifts between the character of Radha and Krishna. Guruji's dancing presumes the presence of another person; that is probably something he draws from his theatre background.
Kumkum: Radha feels sorry for herself too. Why are you pleading with me, she says. Go quickly, go to that other woman, o lotus-eyed one. She waits for you, she waits with a garland in her heart. She has the power to end all your suffering.
Kumkum: Having said this, Radha turns to him, her body shaking with anger, her eyes full of tears. This ashtapadi really brings out a number of such emotions, especially with sringara rasa. Sringara rasa is a favourite in theatre and dance because it is one of the few multi-dimensional rasas.
I learnt this item from Guruji at Nritya Niketan. Nritya Niketan was that flat of Mr. Khosla's on Bhagat Singh road. We would dance in the hall and he lived in the other room. I probably learnt it in the late 1960s or early 1970s. At that time, Guruji took one week to complete one line of the ashtapadi. He explained every nuance of it so carefully.
dasana-vasanam arunam tava krsna tanoti tanor anurupam
hari! hari! ...ma vada kaitava-vadam
You have been kissing her collyrium-smeared eyes all night;
the red lips that clothe rows of teeth have been stained black, they now resemble the complexion of your body.
Hari! hari! (exclamations) Go away Madhava, go away Kesava, do not speak deceptive words...
Kumkum: As she averts her head, Radha realises that she has seen collyrium on Krishna's lips. She says to him - the kajal you kissed so tenderly shines on your lips. The woman you kissed and embraced - her kajal marks your lips as if the red lips that clothe your teeth have been subsumed by the blackness of the rest of your dark body.
Krishna quickly makes up a lie to explain the kajal marks. He rubs it off with a cloth tied around his waist and then casts around for an answer till he comes up with the idea of telling her that his lips were stained by eating the jamun fruit and not by the other woman's eyes.
Kumkum: Guruji drew this tale from folklore and it is not a part of Jayadeva's text.
Radha is again distressed and angered by his lies and turns away from him. Krishna tries to embrace her but she struggles to break his grasp and pushes him away.
Kumkum: I can see on your body the signs of love's war and the marks of sharp nails. It seems as if your victory in lovemaking has been inscribed in gold on a dark emerald stone. Again, Krishna looks for a plausible explanation to give. He tells Radha that he entered the dense forest to search for a ketaki flower she could wear in her bun. All the thorns that pricked him in the process of getting that flower caused all the scratches. She is disgusted by his lies.
Vapur anuharati tava smara-sangara-khara-nakhara-ksata-rekham
marakata-shakala-kalita-kala-dhauta-liper iva rati-jaya-lekham
...ma vada kaitava-vadam
Your dark body is marked with scratches from the sharp nails of that passionate woman,
almost as if she has inscribed a certificate of victory in lovemaking in golden letters upon a dark emerald.
Do not speak deceptive words...
yahi madhava yahi kesava ma vada kaitava-vadam
Go away Madhava, go away Kesava, do not speak deceptive words!
'Ma vada kaitava-vadam' is repeated as Radha reaches the heights of agony, ending in a calmly anguished interaction with Krishna, where she implores him not to utter further untruths.
Kumkum: Krishna has lied to her without restraint and she cannot bear his deviant words any longer. Radha resists all attempts at reconciliation. I have made my heart strong and your words have no effect on me, she seems to say.
This has a longish sanchari but it is a very well thought-out composition. I taught this to my Japanese students. When I was teaching this, I would also take language classes because they had to learn the exact pronunciation of these words. That's how Asako (Takami) learnt to write Hindi.
The raga changes suddenly. Despondent Krishna who had no answer to Radha's questions is now recovering and tries to placate Radha.
priye! charusheele! munca mayi manam anidanam
sapadi madananalo dahati mama manasam
My beloved! My graceful one, forget this causeless aversion
while you sulk, the fire of amorous desire burns my heart,
allow me to drink the honey of your lotus face...
Kumkum: This is actually a cajoling item. Krishna methodically tries to win Radha over
Krishna is genuinely repentant now. He had gone to the other woman, he admits, but Radha is the one he loves the most. My heart belongs to her, he says. I offer my crown to her.
Oh, beloved one, stop being indifferent towards me, he pleads. Don't enforce this unreasonable separation on me. My heart is aflame with the fire of love. Cupid's arrows pierce me from all sides, my body burns with this passion. Let me drink the nectar of your lotus face.
Bhubaneswar Mishra strums to keep the beat.
vadasi yadi kincid-api danta-ruci-kaumudi harati dara-timiram ati-ghoram
sphurad-adhara-sidhave tava vadana-candrama rocayati locana-cakoram
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.
Kumkum: Were you to say even a few words, one could see the beauty of your teeth, which dazzle like moonlight. Their radiance could remove the deep darkness of the night, in my heart.
He describes the glow on her moonlike face, saying that his eyes are drawn to her face like the chakora to the moon.
Kumkum: You are my ornament, you are my very life.
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.
The sanchari implies the inseparable quality of their relationship. Krishna and Radha are as bound to each other as the creeper which circles a tree, as the fish in water, as the bee attracted to a lotus flower, as the wick which helps light a lamp. Krishna poses with his flute; the image of Krishna playing a flute owes its life to Radha's presence, he says.
Kumkum: 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. Lakshmi emerged from the ocean during the sagara manthan, becoming the ratna (gem) of the universe.
May you be here, within my heart, constantly, compliant to me. That is what my heart wants.
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.
Kumkum: The effects of Cupid's poison have destroyed me. His arrows come flying at me and I burn with unfulfilled desire. Please end my suffering by placing your enchanting bud-like feet on my head, as an ornament.
Radha is shocked at Krishna's request. As he tells her that he will be freed from the fire of kama if she complies with his request, she attempts to say that she could never allow the lord of the three worlds to place his head at her feet. Don't curse me thus, she pleads.
He gives her the peacock feather in his crown which she places back, as she wipes his tears. They make up at last. She falls at his feet.
The line 'dehi pada-pallavam udaram'
is repeated as Krishna implores that he be allowed to place his head on Radha's feet as he asks for forgiveness. Moved by his anguish, she finally gives in and forgives him, bowing down to him.
The music changes as Radha and Krishna now celebrate their joyous reunion with a small sequence of steps performed together, going on to exit the stage together.
Kumkum: The tune used for the exit here is from another Oriya song.
Guruji is back with the other musicians, playing the mardala for moksha.