Work like you don’t need the money, love like your heart has never been broken, and dance like no one is watching—this is the catchphrase of Ranjana Gouhar, one of the leading exponents of Odishi classical dance. No surprise that, grace glides on her feet when she dances. From her impeccable footwork to her facial expression, her every action leaves audience spellbound. Incredible India is the land of multiple languages, arts, dance forms, etc. One can find the prevalence of many distinct dance forms, which have evolved through ages. Odishi is an established ancient, breathtakingly beautiful form of sacred dance, which was originally developed in the temple of Jagannath, which is also a sense of inspiration for Ranjana. “Classical dance is love, joy, intense passion, pure divine and the base of every dance form,” says Ranjana.
This disciplined danseur has been honoured with the prestigious award Padma Shree in 2003 for her deep devotion and dedication to Odishi dance. The forte of her dance style has been abhinay, which is based on expressions and moods of life. Since her most-liked poem is Sri Geet Govindam, written by the great poet Jayadev, which provides the essence of love between Radha and Krishna, predictably she has given maximum performances on it. Talking about her tryst with Odishi dance, which she began quite early in life, she says: “I do not have a background or family heritage of dance. However, I was pulled in that direction out of sheer love and a strong inner force, which I cannot describe. I had also learnt the Kathak style, but eventually I felt that only Odishi dance was meant for me and nothing else. And hence to perfect my art form, I learnt dance under the guidance of legendary guru Guru Mayadhar Raut, gave my first stage performance as her disciple and people showered encomiums on the performance”.
Being a single parent to her son for past 23 years she has managed everything so bravely and vivaciously, and along with that Ranjana has steadily and quietly carved a niche out for herself in the arena of Odishi dance and made it her life. As a virtual ambassador of years-old culture in numerous countries across the globe, she confides: “The way sunrise and twilight infuse a sense of elation in everyone, the same way dancing re-ignites fire in me whenever I get upset.”
Besides dancing, Ranjana had explored mediums like theatre, filmmaking and even painting, even before embarking on the tough journey through the labyrinth of the lyrical medium of dance. “I have been running a dance school, ‘Utsav’ since 1987, which is dedicated to the cause of creating awareness and sensitivity about the rich cultural heritage of the country,” informs Ranjana. When asked about her memorable moment in her life, she said: “It’s pretty difficult to choose one, but yet when I gave my first performance in Pakistan 18 years back, the response I received from the audience was overwhelming.”
Ranjana plan to continue the series of “Unbound Beats of India”, this year too. This festive is to propagate the arts and also to showcase the talent of the young dancers, who will take it forward.
By Vaishali Tanwar