‘Youngsters dance in pubs to tire themselves out: Pandit Birju Maharaj

Dancing in pubs and nights clubs is not dancing. It is something else which is done just for the body and that too just to tire it out so that one can sleep at the end of the day.

Written by Express News Service | Ludhiana | Published:March 2, 2009 1:19 am

Dancing in pubs and nights clubs is not dancing. It is something else which is done just for the body and that too just to tire it out so that one can sleep at the end of the day. In classical dance forms,the genre is different. Here the lai and the taal have an impact on the mind and soul. These words were echoed by Kathak exponent Pt Birju Maharaj on Sunday afternoon.

In the town on the invitation of the Ludhiana Sanskritik Samagam and the Delhi Public School,he along with student Saswati Devi and 20 other disciples would be performing in the city this evening.

Unlike many of his contemporaries,71-year-old Pt Birju Maharaj is not worried by the onslaught of western dance or music. For he says,“Our audience is intact.”

This accomplished dancer,who is also a singer and musician,has won many awards including the Padma Vibhushan (1986),Sangeet Natak Akademi award,Kalidas Samman and the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar in 2002. This torchbearer of the Lucknow Gharana has been conferred the honorary Doctorate degrees by the Banaras Hindu University and the Khairagarh University. Born on February 4,1938,this legend belongs to the Kalka-Bindadin Lucknow Gharana of Kathak. Named Brij Mohan,he is the son of legendary Achchan Maharaj of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers. He was introduced to dancing in the initial years of life. Trained by his uncles Shambhu Maharaj and Lachchu Maharaj,he gave his first performance at the age of seven.

“I belong to a family of dancers. As a child I was made to dance on the stage even when I did not know how to hold my fingers. My father would open his performance with me dancing for the first fifteen to twenty minutes and it is from here that I carry a heritage and will continue to do so till my last breath,” expressed the legendary dancer who is also a known vocalist,having command over Thumri,Dadra,Bhajan and Ghazals. He has also composed the music and gave his voice for two dance sequences in the film ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’,directed by Satyajit Ray. He also gave music in the films such as Devdas (2002),Gadar (2001),and Dil To Pagal Hai (1997).

Talking about Kathak,Pt Birju Maharaj explained,“Everything around us — the environment,the cosmos,the earth — all have a movement and this movement is a dance. The speed is the movement and as a dancer I capture this speed,lai in my movement which I express to all. This lai and taal could be as simple as the old ringtone of our telephones which was composed on jhaptaal to the mother bird feeding her little babies.” About the performance Saswati Devi explained,“Through our performance today,we will portray the journey of Kathak from the temples on to the courts of kings and zamindaars and to the present day auditorium and stages.”

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