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Kathak Kendra guru had faced student complaint earlier too

Upadhyay is currently lodged in Tihar Jail while police have completed the process of speaking to other gurus and students at the Kendra.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | New Delhi | December 20, 2020 7:45:21 am
Pandit Ravi Shankar Updadhyay (Photo: The Anād Foundation)

Pakhawaj player Pt Ravi Shankar Upadhyay, who was sent to judicial custody after a 23-year student of the Kathak Kendra accused him of molestation and registered an FIR at Chanakyapuri police station, had been warned by a former director of the institute after another complaint from the same student two years ago. Pt Rajendra Gangani, a senior guru at the institute, corroborated this.

The woman, meanwhile, claimed Saturday that she had made the complaint about Upadhyay, which was taken to the then director by a teacher.

It was on December 14, after Upadhyay allegedly misbehaved with the woman again, that she filed the police complaint.

Upadhyay is currently lodged in Tihar Jail while police have completed the process of speaking to other gurus and students at the Kendra.

Kathak Kendra, a constituent unit of Sangeet Natak Akademi, was initially established as the Kathak wing of Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra. Here, legendary Lucknow gharana exponent Shambhu Maharaj began by being the Head of the Department. In 1964, the institute became a part of Sangeet Natak Akademi.

“Earlier, if there was a complaint, and this is a time when there were no CCTVs, they would just dissuade the person, tell them that their career would get spoiled, convince them by saying that the guru would lose his reputation and snuff out the issue… Now, no one tolerates this,” Gangani, a Kathak exponent and guru of the renowned Jaipur gharana, who has been teaching at Kathak Kendra for 30 years, claimed.

Kathak exponent Nisha Mahajan, who learned at the Kendra from 1980 to 1985 and taught yoga thereafter till 2000, said there was “something tremendously wrong” with the system. “There was this notion that in order to be able to present bhaav or abhinaya, if you don’t go through certain experiences, it does not work. This was considered a part of the mentorship, of course informally… There was this aura of hero-worship and personality cult. And not all students were compelled. Either the students gave in, some others who really wanted to dance were willing to make the compromise. Then there were others who just left,” said Mahajan.

Mumbai-based Kathak exponent Uma Dogra was one of those who left. She was around 14 at the time. On Saturday morning, she tweeted: “This is not news, the filth is old and going on for a long time (sic).”

The director of the Kendra, Suman Kumar, said this is the first time in the centre’s history that a guru has been suspended.

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