I feel extremely happy that a full-length biography of the eminent folk-artist and consummate drummer Padmashree Bhagaban Sahu has been attempted. The author Sujata Patnaik has done this excellent, much-needed work.
I have seen Sri Bhagaban Sahu perform withy his Narendrapur troupe. I had spoken to him on many occasions too on Ganjam's folk art traditions. His knowledge on the subject was vast and he comprehended all intricate aspects of the various art-forms of that district, more particularly in Danda Nada. His role in setting up the Narendrapur Kala Vikash Kendra of which he became the soul and to which he invited gurus and dance-masters from all over Orissa are now matters of history. Less known is his somewhat humble beginning from a Brahmin family and how his life took a turn when he had a chance encounter with a sage at the Kumbha Mela
Sri Sahu was never a good student in school. Like many a genius he was a deeply spiritual being. It was his spiritual quest which took him to Himalayas. Returning, to be again a man of the world he learnt Paika Dance, deeply impressed Guru Pankaj Charan as an Odissi dancer but discovered soon that his genius lay in the folk art of the people of his district. Circus show and show-manship of physical prowess were like his spiritual journeys to discover where he belonged, what the best field where he could excel. And excel he did in teaching the illiterate farmer boys the art of various folk dances. The excellence of performance was soon recognized and he was decorated with Sangeet Natak. Academy Award (1974), Tulsi Samman (1984-85), the State Sangeet Academy Award and several other honours. I was extremely happy when Government of India conferred on him the Padmashree. These recognitions he received and his role as a teacher, choreographer or connoisseur of Orissa's folk traditions were no doubt important for the state of Orissa where a person virtually emerging from grass-roots earned the highest honours the state can confer.
But I will never forget his solo drum performance that I enjoyed. The huge drum, slung from the neck of an old man and the way it moved all along with his gyrating movement. The drummer and the drum literally became one. The beat was divine and the sight was for gods to see.
The people of Orissa and all lovers of art and in particular folk-art traditions will indeed be grateful to Ms. Sujata Patnaik who has made considerable efforts to piece together the details of a little-known life for all of us.
Back of the Book
Born in a remote village of Orissa, the versatile folk dance and music exponent Bhagaban Sahu danced into the heart of millions to become one of the cult figures of Indian culture. His single-minded devotion and indomitable will resuscitated rich tradition of folk-dances like Chadheiya, Ranapa, Ghoomura, Paika and many others. The author, in this biographical account, presents a vignette of the life of this maverick, one-man institution of Oriya folk culture. The book not only unfolds the doyen's life in the most captivating way but also makes a statement that the cultural firmament of India owes it radiance to the stars like Bhagban Sahu.
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