A step to breathe life into Odisha’s endangered folk art forms

Bhubaneswar: Many people will hardly be aware that ‘Prahallada Nataka,’ ‘Saahi Jaatra’ and ‘Bharat Lila’ are folk art forms! Although Odissi, Chhau dance and the temples are famous all around the globe, there are many folk arts of Odisha which even the people of the State are unaware of.

But now with the efforts of a group of three culture lovers of the State, these traditional art forms are now getting a new lease of life.

Prateek Pattanaik, a BSc student of BJB Autonomous College, Bhubaneswar is the brain behind documentation of endangered art forms of Odisha. His enthusiasm towards revival of folk arts of Odisha generated interest in retired banker Debendra Pattanayak and professional theatre artist Arjun Samantaray and the trio came together with an aim to document the art forms in audio-visual medium.

“I had interest in Jagannath culture and from there I gained interest in classical music of Odisha, and slowly and steadily my interest towards the culture and heritage of the State grew. I was captivated by the performing arts tradition of the State and found the condition of these to be very poor. So, I thought to preserve our culture by involving technology. There are many dying art forms. We have already lost a lot, so I don’t want these art forms to become extinct,” said Prateek.

Their first project was a crowd-funded audio-visual documentation of Ganjam’s ‘Prahallada Nataka – a 300-year-old form of theatre art where Lord Vishnu is depicted in his lion avatar -Nrusingha. This ‘Nataka’ was written by Odia king Raja Ramakrusna Chhotray. At the end of the play, demon king ‘Hiranakahsyapa’ is killed by ‘Nrusingha’ after the former’s argument with his son Prahallada who is a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu in his Nrusingha avatar descended as half lion and half man to kill the demon king according to Hindu mythology.

“Culture has always fascinated me. When I discovered ‘Prahallada Nataka’, I found it really fascinating but not many people knew about this art form from Ganjam district. We have a 24-hour video footage and will be releasing it soon on YouTube with subtitles. The trailer is already a big hit on YouTube and many people have appreciated our work so far,” Prateek informed.

Speaking about their association, Arjun Samantaray said “I am connected to Prahallada Nataka since childhood so I decided to meet Prateek after he tweeted about this art form on twitter. There are a few groups performing it these days. I am happy that whatever we are doing will reach many people all around the world and may be helpful to revive the endangered art forms of the State.”

“Everything is done by us – conceptualization, production, field work, translation, video shooting, editing etc and we also use our own equipments,” said retired banker, Debendra Pattanayak, who is also a wildlife photographer.

The team work has been really good without any disagreements. We are very happy with this and want to continue this in future as well.

— Debendra Pattanayak

After Prahallada Nataka, they have already documented three more folk arts- ‘Rabana Chhaya,’ Puri’s 800-year-old ‘Saahi Jaatra’ and ‘Bharata Lila’ of Ganjam district. There is a plan of releasing the videos of these art forms after putting the full video of ‘Prahallada Nataka’ on YouTube.

At a time when many people are moving towards western music and movies, this step by a group which is a mixture of young and old is providing some hope for the dying art forms of Odisha.