Padma Shri Jatin Goswami: Guru of Change for Art and Dance

Jatin Goswami
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Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh–He feels that in order to keep tradition alive and ensure that different art forms keep breathing for generations to come, it is paramount that they adapt and avoid an inflexible stance towards change, improvisation and modernism.

“Why do we tend to assume that whatever emerges from contemporary contexts is a threat,” asked Jatin Goswami, who was awarded the Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to the classical dance form ‘Sattriya’.

Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of the ongoing Khajuraho Dance Festival, where he was felicitated with the Kalidas Samman by the Madhya Pradesh government, the master smiled when asked if the government took too long to accept Sattriya as a classical dance form despite its 500-year old tradition. Goswami was instrumental in getting Sattriya into the category of classical dance in the year 2000.

“Well, let’s not forget that Assam is quite far from Delhi. Even now, many don’t know where the state is, and continue to question the classical relevance of the dance form. The acceptance (as a classical form) might have came late, but in the past two decades, the Union Ministry of Culture has done a lot for it. Guess we must look at the future now,” said one of the best known exponents of the dance form, who is also the founder of Alok Shilpi Sangha, a dance academy.

Goswami is optimistic about the future of the form as he has witnessed an increasing number of Assamese youngsters coming forward to learn it. Pointing out that there has been a substantial increase in the number of students post 2000, he added, “Before that, most of the students were inclined towards Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Odissi; but now things have changed.”

Talk to him about how over the years the younger generation, instead of being in the closed confines of ‘satras’ are preferring to stay outside, and Goswami says that though there is a fear that the ritualistic traditions may decline, but one needs to be clear that there are two parts to this dance form — one is the worship and the other is performance art.

“When it comes to the former, we ensure that all traditions are upheld. Earlier, this was a male-oriented dance. Over the years, women have also participated in it and we have witnessed a sea change in costumes and styles and music when it comes to performing for the public,” he said.

Insisting that it has enough potential to be popular beyond the borders of Assam, Goswami said, “Before Independence, there was no dance form called Odissi. In fact, Sattriya received its first Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1963 while Odissi got it three years later. But look at the immense popularity of Odissi across the country and beyond. What is needed is a collaborative effort between Sattriya practitioners, the state, the Central government and the corporates,” he said.

Stressing that festivals like the Khajuraho Dance Festival not only help practitioners but are also instrumental in building an audience that learns to appreciate classical traditions, Goswami said, “Every state government should think of organising such festivals, even if it is at a smaller scale.” (IANS)


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