International Odissi Festival 2003: Seminar - Aruna Mohanty on Champu sahitya
Duration: 00:44:17; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 305.990; Saturation: 0.022; Lightness: 0.214; Volume: 0.189; Cuts per Minute: 1.129; Words per Minute: 31.605
Summary: The 2nd International Odissi Festival was organised by IPAP between August 28 - 31, 2003, in Washington D.C. Dedicated to the memory of Guru Pankaj Charan Das, who passed away in June 2003, it brought together Odissi dancers and scholars from all over the world.
This is a presentation on champu sahitya by Aruna Mohanty. Champus are alphabetical compositions in Oriya and Sanskrit, where the first word of every line in a composition starts with the same alphabet. Thus in a 'bha-champu', every line starts with a word beginning with 'bha'. while the 'padya', poetic compositions that are champus, are in Oriya, the 'gadya' compositions are Sanskrit prose.
Aruna Mohanty is a senior disciple of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan. She has also received training from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She first made a mark in the early 1980s and gained fame for her duet performances with Nandita Patnaik.
Jayant Kastuar explains the format of the presentations, where the dancers will talk about a piece and perform parts of it to illustrate their point.
This is a presentation on champu sahitya by Aruna Mohanty. Champus are alphabetical compositions in Oriya and Sanskrit, where the first word of every line in a composition starts with the same alphabet. Thus in a 'bha-champu', every line starts with a word beginning with 'bha'.
Mohanty prefaces her talk on champus with a short note on abhinaya.
"In case of structuring of abhinaya...we have to look at it in the context of the relationship of rasa and bhava. Perception plays a crucial role in the evolution of theory as also the techniques of each of the four instrumentalities of expression - angika, vachika, aharya and satvika. In Upanishada, we know that the mind and the intellect... (indistinct), but here, as an artist, i feel - apart from intellect, initial training, grooming is necessary for the possibility of a total experience. In this context I would like to say that today, we feel that yoga assumes significance where equilibrium, balance and harmony of physical, intellectual, emotive and spiritual levels are considered essential."
Citing the Natyasastra, she says that the world is made up of words; there is nothing beyond words. They are at the roots of all performing arts. She goes on to describe champu 'a typical and unusual form of words, which is partly prosaic and partly poetic." It is composed as prose in Sanskrit and poetry in Oriya. There is one champu for each of the 34 characters in the Oriya alphabet. The play with the alphabet does not take away from the lyrical charm of champus and the rhythm of verses.
She goes on to talk about the 'delicate lyrical sense and unusual sound effects' of the champu, when sung or recited. The main theme of the songs is the love of Radha and Krishna. The songs are composed as dialogues, as conversations between the characters. these are composed strictly on traditional ragas and talas of Odissi music. Champu verses are used for solo singing and for rendering Odissi abhinaya.
The dancer depicts the emotion - bhava, which brings out the various moods of the nayak and nayika.
"For an example, as a dancer, when I look at it, I feel that when you are taking a song, for example, the kha-champu, which I know Aloka apa is doing tonight (Aloka Kanungo replies saying she is not doing it)."
Khela-lola-khanja nahi...she recites the first few lines of the kha-champu
Translation: What a spoilt girl you are, that you are falling in love with Krishna; you with the playful eyes of a khanjana (the name of a bird)
"When I look at it, I feel - here, the poet probably hasn't been referring to the height of Radha; we don't know whether Radha was a dwarf or eleven feet tall..."
The use of the term 'dwarf' probably refers to the disparity between Radha and Krishna; if Krishna is the rarest flower of heaven, then Radha as a mortal cannot aspire to, or pine for him. The poet uses one word, but it is explored in different ways to elaborate on the characters in the song and highlight the difference between them.
Mohanty announces that she will perform the la-champu, leela nidhi he.
The nayika of the song is swadhinabhartrka, whose nayak remains by her side forever and is always bound to her. For him his lady love's speech resembles the words of the vedas. He is deeply devoted to her. After their separation and betrayals, when Radha and Krishna are finally united and their love is consummated. After they make love, Radha, in a state of complete undress, requests Krishna to give her her sari, which he has hidden away, and drape silken folds around her breasts.
"Before anyone sees me, please help me face the world. Here, the suggestions are subtle and delicate..."
Mohanty performs excerpts from the piece.
Through our expression and action we recreate this idea so as to produce a mental construct which corresponds to the original idea of the poet. The dancer makes an attempt to communicate the idea through configuration of emotive states, situations and mimetic changes. Like in Natyasastra it is written - born in the heart of the poet, rasa embodied in the poem flowers in the dancer and bears fruit in the spectator. If the artist or poet has the inner force of the creative intuition, the spectator is the man of cultivated emotion in whom lie dormant the different states of being and when he sees them manifested on stage through movement, sound and decor, he is lifted to that ultimate state of being known as ananda. I hope all the performers definitely try to give that ananda to the spectator."
Jayant Kastuar invites questions. A gist of what he says...
Before the written text is actually taken up for delineation and interpretation, the dancer creates a pre-text, a context. She is dancing to a certain text before the song begins.
Aruna Mohanty explains - that when we are talking about union, Radha welcomes Krishna in the character of the swadhinabhartrka nayika, making love to him and consummating their union by physical intimacy. The song depicts what happened after their physical union.
Kastuar asks whether anyone has ever tried working with the prose version (gadya-kavya) of the champu in Sanskrit, whether it lends itself to certain dramatic possibilities.
A discussion ensues...
Minati Mishra says that the prose part elaborates on the song...
The champu is a piece of sahitya with a prose part and the poetry part. The prose serves to take the story further but so does the dancer. Does the gadya-kavya help the dancer in doing so?
Kastuar asks if the dancer is bound by the prose explanation and largely follows that or if the interpretation comes from other strains too.
A little dispute.
Kastuar reiterates his question. People in the audience unanimously react by saying the dancer goes beyond the prose. Also he wants to know if the prose of the champu can be adapted to dramatic works.
Madhavi Mudgal speaks.
Champus are very popular. Even Aruna's piece went beyond the gadya.
Minatiji explains - "When I am dancing, only the essence is there, but I am elaborating it in the song. It is not restrained. I can go beyond it, with sancharis or explanations, but...
She talks about the 'ka-champu'.
Kastuar responds to her, reiterating the same thing he has been saying.
Purna Patnaik asks a question. In a Bharatanatyam concert, there are Tamil padams; every dance has its share of songs in the language of its region of origin. But this is not always the case with Odissi, which seems to have a smaller collection of Oriya songs; Oriya compositions seem to be performed with less frequency.
Kastuar says that Patnaik's question is rather general, and must be left for the last part of the session.
They spend a little more time discussing this. Patnaik, who has resided in the USA for thirty years, remarks that the Odissi dancers he has watched perform rarely took up Oriya compositions, despite the fact that many of them were beautifully choreographed by gurus.
Madhavi Mudgal points out that a lot of the padams are in Telugu and not Tamil.
A member of the audience asks a question - The poet defines a concept according to his/ her imagination, but what the dancer presents has undergone a series of transformations. How are these transformations negotiated? How can a lay audience understand this better?
Kastuar elaborates on this.
The person asking the question explains that each dancer might perform a champu differently, but how may they derive from the same structure (of the text?) of champu.
Rajika Puri asks, "To what extent, given that we are trying to do this in a classical dance form, do we say...that you can't incorporate, for example, the Sanskrit gadya, in some interesting form..."
She suggests different possibilities. How would one react to having the spoken word offer a layer in the interpetation of a champu.
Someone else responds saying that it is possible to present the gadya itself in a musical form.
A third person suggests that if words interrupt the dance, you forget the flow of the dance.
Ratna Roy tries to say something and is interrupted. Someone starts shouting and says that this session must end so that others can be conducted.
Minati Mishra remarks that you cannot express your bhava while the gadya might be recited; it might also disturb the public.