Few of us know that Kathak queen Sitara Devi had a very close connection with Bengal. She was born and brought up in Kolkata. Straddling the world of films and classical dance with equal elan, she also trained Bollywood heroines like Madhubala, Jaya Bhaduri, Kajol and Rani Mukerji during her lifetime.
At very tender age, Sitara Devi got a chance to perform in front of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan. After watching her performance, Tagore offered her some gifts while she requested for something which was eternal, his blessings. Finally Tagore blessed her with the title Nrityasamragini – Empress of Dance. Sitara Devi was only 16 years old back then.
She was recruited into the film industry early but she quit after a few films as she wanted to pursue her career as a Kathak exponent on stage. She made her film debut with Usha Haran in 1940 and went on appearing in films like Roti, Anjali, Mother India and so on. She performed at the Royal Albert Hall, got the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Padma Shree, Kalidas Samman but she refused to take Padma Bhusan as she once said, “Is this government not aware of my contribution to Kathak? I will not accept any award less than Bharat Ratna.”
On the occasion of her death anniversary on December 24, Kalindi Darpan Socio-Cultural Organisation is all set to organise Smaran 2016, remembering her. “She was very fond of Bengal and spoke Bengali fluently. This is the reason why we are holding the event in Kolkata, though Sitara Devi belonged to the Benaras gharana,” said Kathak exponent Vishal Krishna, her grandson.
The event will be held at Dum Dum Rabindra Bhawan. Smaran 2016 will feature exponents from Delhi – Amit Khinchi, disciple of Pt Rajendra Gangani (Kathak legend) and Subhi Johri, student of Pt Jay Kishan Maharaj. But the main performances will be offered by both artists who are the grandsons of Sitara Devi – Vishal Krishna and Kushal Krishna (tabla exponent ) from Benaras. Ace dancer Alokananda Roy will be the chief guest at the event.
“It’s an honor for us hosting the prestigious event remembering the legend Sitara Devi where her family members are also involved. This is the only festival which is dedicated to the Kathak legend Sitara Devi. We love to promote the rich tradition of Indian classical dance forms among the youth”, said Soumali Ganguly, Secretary, Darpan socio-cultural organisation.