Minati Mishra's Odissi Dances in Arundhati (Oriya, 1967)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I've found the remaining Odissi dances of Minati Mishra in the 1967 Oriya film Arundhati!  I'm simply stunned.  I had figured I would never get to see any of the film's dances other than the rare Bharatanatyam-Odissi one from my favorite black-and-white classical dances post because Oriya/Odia films are very difficult to come by (in fact, I haven't the first clue how to get my hands on one).  Perhaps Arundhati's 1967 National Award (Best Feature Film - Oriya) has been a factor in its availability.

I found the dances by performing a quick Google search after happening onto the news of veteran Odissi dancer Minati Mishra being one of the recipients this year of the Indian Padma Shri award (here's video of her accepting the award - what a fancy ceremony!).  2012 has indeed been the year of ridiculously amazing discoveries on this blog!

Below are the wonderful, rare dances, uploaded by YouTuber hellodebabrata.  It's incredibly rare to see such classical Odissi in Indian films, though I suspect there is likely some filmy license taken such as increasing the speed and other minor deviations.  But given how respected a dancer Minati was, I assume the alterations are minimal.  Surely there are more of these wonderful dances hiding in the archives of Oriya cinema (such as Baje Bainsi Nache Ghungura from my Holy Grail post).  Occasionally there is a disgraceful bar/graphic that appears, but it only last a few seconds!  Embedding is disabled on all the clips, so please click on the image to link to the video Update March 2013 - YouTube videos no longer available; replacements listed below!

Namami Bighnaraj - The most classical of the bunch, this dance begins with the dancer's invocation of offering flowers before beginning her performance.  The first half features a good amount of expressional dance/abhinaya whereas the second half offers plentiful pure dance flourishes!  The hallmark Odissi poses, like the tribhangi and chauk, are clearly evident.  Only downside is this song has no english subtitles, boo!


Dekhiba Para Aasare - A group dance performed by five Odissi dancers, this number is a change of pace and features some simple group spatial choreography.  I love the stylized entrance walk of the dancers and the move where they walk slightly backwards with short steps of only the heels (I'm sure it has a name!).  Improving upon the last number, the subtitles suddenly turn on about halfway in this one. 


Abhimanini - This is the dance that I featured previously, and Minati seems to switch almost entirely to the Bharatanatyam idiom (which is most evident starting around 1:32) with a teensy bit of Odissi thrown in for good measure.  For me, the most thrilling portion is the last two minutes where she performs beautiful pure dance and descends down the stairs.  And finally - English subtitles all the way through!


Aren't they just wonderful dances!  There is also a folk dance in the film, if you're interested.

Last, a bit more info on Minati Mishra: She is currently considered "the oldest performing Odissi dancer of the world today" and just last year gave a nearly one-hour solo Odissi performance at a festival celebrating her "commitment to and continuity with Odissi" (The Hindu).  She began learning Odissi under "the trio of gurus Pankajcharan, Debaprasad and Kelucharan Mohapatra" (The Hindu) in the 1940s, a time when "the classical dance form of Odissi was not even born" and "conservative Oriya society" considered dance an inappropriate activity for women. She also learned Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra for a time but soon returned to Odissi will full-time devotion (The Hindu).

10 comments:

  1. Hi Minai,

    First video: It starts with rhythmic syllables called "Bols" they do not mean anything but denote the movement. Then the song on Ganesha

    namAmi vighnarAja tvam
    kalpabrikshya Sthala- sthitam
    umA putram mahakAyam
    dantikam nritya kOvidam
    tANDava priya putrAya
    tANDava priya rUpiNam
    namO chintAmaNi nityam
    shuddha bhuddha pradAyakam

    Translated as:
    Ode to Ganesha, the obstacle remover,
    the one who dwells beneath the Kalpavriksha tree (the tree that fulfills all wishes)
    son of uma who provides all wishes
    the one with the tusk and likes to dance
    the son of Tandava Priya (Shiva, who likes Tandava, a masculine dance form)
    In the image of Tandava Priya
    I bow to you, Chintamani (one of the names of Ganesha)
    The one who gives blessings of happiness and knowledge everyday

    followed by more melodic notes and bols in rhythmic patterns.

    Second video: The heel when pressed to the floor is called the Anchita foot. When the toes touch it is Kunchita. According to this (http://www.nadanam.com/o_position.htm), the footwork of only heels is called Gothi.

    More here: http://odissi-notes.blogspot.com/2007/07/characteristics-vocabulary-repertoire.html

    :)

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    Replies
    1. ragothaman - thanks for the translation, that's very helpful. Ah, Gothi! I just got a book on Odissi so I hope to read more about this. Thanks again.

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  2. isn't odissi the most charming indian dance form? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. rameshram - charming indeed! Though Mohiniattam and female Manipuri are as equally charming, imo. :)

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  3. The first part of the dance is the Mangalacharan, which is the opening / invocatory item in the Odissi concert repertoire. Then the clip segues into a very fast paced Batu nritya, which is a pure dance piece showcasing technical elements of Odissi. Very interesting to watch some style differences between that era and the present time.

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    Replies
    1. Anon - Thank you for the technical information! I thought parts of it seemed very fast-paced- guess they wanted to spice things up for film. :)

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  4. I chanced upon your blog while searching for Odissi dance. I viewed the video clips and enjoyed them thoroughly. I am going to bookmark your blog so that I can easily access it.

    Last year I watched Dr. Minati Mishra performing at the Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar during the International Odissi Dance Festival. I bowed my head to this veteran danseuse.

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  5. Dr. Minati Mishra was conferred with an honourary D.Litt. degree by Utkal University of Culture, Bhubaneswar.

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  6. The Gardener - Hello! I'm very happy you were able to find this post by searching for Odissi dances - the ones in Arundhati are quite special and rare. Thanks for the details on Minati Mishra. How amazing that she can still dance after all this time! I wish I knew how to find copies of other Oriya films to see if there are any other Odissi/northeastern film dances. If you know of any sources, I would love to know. :)

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  7. No, I do not know any other source.

    I shall continue to follow your very enjoyable posts. By the way, Dr. Minati Mishra had got Ph.D in Dance from West Germany much much earlier. She was conferred the honourary D. Litt. Degree when she had been invited to participate in the International Odissi Dance Festival.

    ReplyDelete

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