There are some artists who dance, some who act and there are some who paint but there are very few who can dance, paint and act. Such artistes are rare to find, they are multidimensional and with the gift of different art forms. They can create magic on stage when they present their creation to the world. One such rare gem in the world of art is Ranjana Gauhar, who is blessed by Lord Natraj. she is not only an accomplished Odissi dancer but even a painter and an actor par excellence.
Multifaceted Ranjana Gauhar has been honoured with the prestigious Padmashree Award in 2003 for her longstanding services in the field of Odissi Dance. She is also the recipient of the National Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from the President of India in 2007, senior Fellowship for her research in the temple tradition of Odissi Dance by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award and Mahari Award in 2007 and many other accolades have been bestowed on her for her commitment and dedication to Odissi dance.
This immensely talented lady was born in Delhi and her tryst with Odissi began quite early in life. Born with a passion to use body as a language for the soul, Ranjana’s thirst for innovation took her to different forms and mediums of art. As a child, she dabbled in painting, dance and theatre. But it was Odissi that finally captured her heart and soul.She trained under the legendary guru – Guru Mayadhar Raut. She had chosen Philosophy for graduation and English Literature for MA and enriched her experience as a dancer by also learning Kathak and Manipuri dance styles. Ranjana’s views life as an extension of her dance. She has even experimented with Chhau dance – Odisha’s martial art form – and successfully blended it with her own inimitable style of Odissi
“Utsav” is Ranjana’s Odissi Dance Company comprising dedicated, focused and committed young artists who have been personally trained under her expert guidance. The dance company has won appreciation of the audiences, critics and art lovers at several events and festivals held in India and abroad. Some of them are: Kalidas Samaroh (Ujjain), Nishagandhi Festival (Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala), Alwa’s Virasat Festival (Mangalore), Triveni Mahotsav (Allahabad), International Conference “Namaste” (Hyderabad, ICCR festival, HCL Concert series at IHC, Festival in Kuwait, Konark Festival and many more. In September 2010, the repertory performed a series of dance recitals for ICCR’s festival of India “Namaste France” in France and in Europe. Guru Ranjana Gauhar conceptualizes and designs performances of India’s centuries old traditions of philosophy, mythology and spirituality to suit the modern mind set, which is easily understood by all.
She has also produced and directed a number of professional ballets depicting contemporary and mythological themes. Her ballet “Trimudra” has a distinct language, grammar and technique. Yet there are elements that are common to all. These are strung together through the medium of laya (rhythm), bhava (expression), and Mudra(poses).
“Ksheer Sagar-The Might of the Ocean” weaves together two Indian mythological narratives- Chandra bhaga and The Matsya Avatar. Though diverse thematically, they portray the might of the Ocean.
Sri Jayadeva’s dramatic lyrical poem “Sri Geet Govindam” a love song of the dark lord is described as the last of the ancient and the first of the modern Sanskrit poetry. Jayadeva is universally acknowledged as a writer of the sweetest lyrics in Sanskrit and his creation “Sri Geet Govindam” is a unique work in Indian literature and a source of inspiration for writers, poets and artistes.
“Chitrangada’ A Dance Drama is inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s vision and his sensitivity to portray “the complete woman” as one who personifies love, courage and substance, Ranjana, pays homage to the genius of Rabindranath Tagore through her presentation of his dance drama ‘Chitrangada’.
Furthermore, she is an independent film producer, researcher and scriptwriter and has successfully produced many television serials, films and documentaries. “Saundarya Lahari” is a 5-episode serial, based on “Sri Geet Govindam” of the 12th Century poet, Jaidev was commissioned by Doordarshan, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India to this dynamic dancer. So was involved in other productions like “Prerna”, “Manas Mandir”and “Odissi Chandrika”.
“Nectar in Stone’ is a film depicting the cultural relations of India with Vietnam and Cambodia through ancient Hindu Temples which was Commissioned to her by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. “The Celestial Dancer” in the Temple of Jagannath was commissioned by the Ford Foundation and “Nupur” was an independent production for The Indira Gandhi National Open University.
Smt. Gauhar has travelled with her art of Odissi Dance across the length and breadth of the country. She has participated in prestigious dance festivals including Khajuraho Festival, Kalidas Festival in Ujjain and Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale Centenary Festival at Kalak shetra. This cultural ambassador of India has performed at the Festival of India, Queen Elizabeth Royal Festival Hall, The Royal Hall of Plymouth, the Commonwealth Institute, Oxford University, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, Dahlem Museum, Berlin, West Germany besides having performed in other cities in Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Serbia, Cyprus, Kuwait, Switzerland, Tunisia, Yugoslavia, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Croatia and Latin American countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico. In Mexico, Ranjana represented India at the Cerventino Festival.
Her contribution to the propagation of Odissi is her book titled ‘Odissi – The Dance Divine’, released in February, 2007. This is not all her latest offering to all the dance lover is “Tejasa-Women from the Ramayana’. In present times, we as a society are grappling with the issues to ensure a safe and dignified status for women. In India, woman has been extolled in different manifestations as a Goddess, mother or a consort, since ancient times. Through ‘Tejasa-Women from the Ramayana”, Ranjanaji will depict a facet of this epic which is completely novel in its approach and presentation. The story and characters of Ramayan have been a household name for thousands of generation, yet, the plight of the various women in this epic has escaped notice and so has never been pondered about or highlighted. Four women of the Ramayana – Sita, Kaikeyi, Shurpanakha and Mandodari – each narrates her story, from her individual and deeply personal point of view. Each of their stories reflects the composite nature, conflicts and compulsions of a woman as well as her inherent strength and claim to dignity and respect.
The content is drawn from the main texts of the Ramayana and enriched by the innumerable other local variations of the great epic. The script for this ballet is written by Suryakanthi Tripathi, who through the sheer strength of her unique characterization of these women from the Ramayan has drawn the focus of everyone, compelling them to give a serious thought and ponder about an aspect that was until now overpowered by the larger story of the epic.
The Music Director & Composer is Saroj Mohanty, artists presenting the ballet are Ranjana Gauhar(Odissi-Sita), Uma Dogra (Kathak-Kaikeyi), Gopika Varma(Mohiniyattam-Surpanakha), Deepika Reddy (Kuchipudi-Mandodari) and the show’s Technical Director is Sandeep Dutta
So if you hear about this show coming to your city or to a city near you, immediately book a seat for yourself along with your dance loving friends because this is one show you surely don’t want to miss. I am writing this article today to wish Ranjana all the very best for her upcoming shows of “Tejasa” and at the same time want to thank her for being simply being her, a true artist who has dedicated her life to art and through her dance, painting and acting has inspired dancer world over. Thank you Ranjana Gauharji, we all dancers love you from the bottom of our hearts.
(SandipSoparrkar is a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with National Achievement and National Excellence Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)