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Oriya Vaishnava Dance Troupe Holds India Spellbound
By Kunal M. Shah   |  Aug 29, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: The all-conquering members of the Oriya dance troupe ‘Prince’ — comprising daily wage earners — may now justly expect a reception fit for kings.

Since the moment Bollywood star Rani Mukherjee announced that the dancers from far-flung Ganjam district in Orissa were the winners of the TV reality show, "India’s Got Talent", everybody and his brother in the state is doing a jig.

And with good reason. The dancers are not just starry-eyed participants in a hotly contested programme where the ultimate prize was Rs 50 lakh and a Maruti Ritz. Nearly every member of the group of 24 has surmounted individual odds — two of them have overcome polio — and shown their unbeatable spirit.

Coming from different parts of Ganjam, the dancers displayed perfect symmetry of determination and talent to outperform groups from across India — including an improbable 10 in the grand finale. Their winning submission was a performance based on ‘Dashavatar’ — the 10 avataras of Lord Vishnu.

"We’d hoped to win. Now that we have achieved our mission, we’re thrilled!" exclaimed troupe leader Krishna Mohan Reddy (26) on phone from Mumbai. The self-taught dancer-choreographer told TOI, "The prize money has come as a blessing as most of us were in dire need of it. Some needed to build houses, others have sisters to get married."

Krishna — from a nondescript village Ambapua on the outskirts of Berhampur, Ganjam — said he now plans to set up a dance academy. "We’ll all contribute part of our prize money for the institute," he said.

The Berhampur-based troupe — their story sounds a bit like the rags-to-riches tale of Jamal Malik in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ — has become a statewide obsession ever since its members startled everybody with their fleet-footed show. Such was "Prince’s" impact that CM Naveen Patnaik declared his vote for the group. "Their performance has been magical and they have made Orissa proud," he said after congratulating Krishna and his boys.

‘Prince’ was formed four years ago. Two of its members, Padmanabha Sahu (24) and Telu Tarini (13), suffer from polio. Most dancers are wage earners in their teens or 20s. They practised in Ambapua and on Gopalpur beach, and have now left their footprints on the sands of time.

After winning Rs 50 lakh and a car from the channel, a pleasant surprise lay in store for them. The Orissa government announced a cash prize of Rs one crore and four acres of land for the group to build a dance academy.

Confirming the news, Krishna Mohan Reddy, the choreographer said, “We have heard that our government has announced a prize for us. We feel honoured. I am very happy that our efforts have paid off.”

The group, which is from Behrampur, Orissa, consists of 20 members. Krishna leads the team and the rest are labourers from a construction site. It was their Krishna act which earned the group accolades from the viewers nationwide and they also became a favourite with the judges.

Commenting on their future plans, Krishna added, “I am a choreographer and want to grow in this profession. With the land provided to us by the government I want to build a dance academy and take this art forward. I would also want to perform on an international platform.”