Odisha’s Dhanu Jatra: Meet People Who Make Characters Come Alive

A family has been designing the costumes of the artistes and doing their make up for the past many years

Bargarh: Costumes and make up are an important part of any theatrical production. A lot of hard work goes into preparing artistes. In other words, a there is investment both in terms of money and also patience.

While artistes are rehearsing day and night for Bargarh’s Dhanu Jatra to be held from December 31 to January 10, the men behind the scenes, the costume designers and make up artistes are working equally hard.  Dhanu Jatra is the world’s largest open-air theatre festival when the town transforms into the ancient city of Mathura.

Costumes of the two main characters, the king and the minister are almost ready. Jhankara Chitralaya Chief Debanand Sahu’s family has been designing these costumes since the last 70 years. The family also takes care of the make up of the artistes.

“I have been doing this work since 1972. I was in Class-VIII then. I learnt it from my father. My uncles were also involved in this work. Two of my uncles also used to play the role of the Minister in the Jatra. When my eldest uncle died, my father sent me to do the make up of the actors playing Krishna and Balram. I did this work for four years. After Class-X, my father sent me for training to Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Chennai,” he said.

“I started designing the costumes of King Kansa in 1979. I always try to add a new element in the costumes. We should feel proud for Dhanu Jatra,” said Debanand.

“Since 1999, Debanand has been doing my costumes and make up. There is magic in his hands. When we wear costumes made by Debanand, we feel as if we are the real characters,” said Bhubaneswar Pradhan, who is playing the role of King Kansa.

“We started working on the costumes in October. We study the flaws in the dress designed earlier and accordingly rectify them. The raw material is generally procured from Cuttack, Kolkata and Raipur,” said Debanand.

The festival is a visual delight with different episodes being depicted frame by frame, beginning with the wedding of Kansa’s sister Devaki with Vasudev followed by his accession to the throne, the dethroning of his father Ugrasen and concludes with the death of the demon king at the hands of his nephew, Lord Krishna.

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