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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Moves of the Maestro

UK-based Padmashri Guru Pratap Pawar,the first disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj,gives a flashback of his five-decade long association with kathak

Written by Rushil Dutta | Published: August 26, 2013 12:59:31 am

He sat with a grace only a kathak maestro can conjure. After all,he has trained with the best. Padmashri Guru Pratap Pawar is Pandit Birju Maharaj’s first disciple. “Pandit Birju Maharaj started his classes in Delhi on February 5,1959 with only one pupil,which was me. I trained with him for 15 years,” says the 72-year-old dancer,plucking out precise dates from his trove of memories. Pawar performed in the city at Bal Shikshan Mandir,Mayur Colony on August 22.

Pawar’s journey in kathak has been a long and eventful one. “I was first commissioned by the Government of India in 1972 to spread the message of kathak to Guyana,” says Pawar,whose stay in the Caribbean lasted for eight years. “I was initially slated to stay in Guyana for four years,but then I got an invitation from Trinidad and spent an additional four years performing and teaching kathak there,” adds the guru.

After Pratap’s spell in Guayana and Trinidad,during a chance visit to London,where he initially had planned to stay only for a week,he was requisitioned by London’s Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to conduct a workshop with 40 students. “What was initially a week’s trip turned into a month’s by the time I got done with my workshop. At its completion they wanted me stationed permanently at London,” says Pawar adding,“I was in a dilemma and the reasons were various.” At that point in his life he was offered a Ministerial position by the Government of Trinidad,which was paying more than handsomely. “Plus,my family was in Trinidad. The remuneration that the project in London was offering me was a tiny fraction of what I was being offered there. But the love for the art pulled me to London,for that is where I could practice and proliferate it.”

Pawar has been in London since and credits himself as being “the man who brought kathak to London”,where he runs the Pratap Pawar Triveni Dance Company. “After having spent over 40 years abroad,my heart still lies in India,which I visit twice a year,” confesses Pawar.

Sharing thoughts on his performance in the city,which he dedicated to the late kathak danseuse Rohini Bhate,he says,“She practiced and popularised the dance form during a time when kathak wasn’t a respectable dance form for a girl hailing from a Maharashtrian Brahmin family to practice. She stood against all odds and devoted herself to the art and contributed so greatly to it.”

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