Keeping guru-shishya parampra alive

The world of kathak is a small one, where often you rendezvous with the same set of people at dance recitals around town. Yet, every performance reaches out to new set of individuals and helps spread the joy of dancing to an untapped audience.

Running into its 4th edition, 'Diksha festival', organised by the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts (IGNCA) and Kalashram held its 3 day programme from December 6-8, 2019 at the IGNCA to celebrate Pandit Birju Maharaj. The first three editions celebrated Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Bansuri Guru Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasiya, and musicologist Acharaya Brihaspati. However, the response from this festival truly transformed the IGNCA team which thanked Maharajji and Saswati Sen for their efforts in bringing forth the beauty of Kathak in a beautiful yet accessible way.

Keeping in tune with the theme of the programme, all the participants were Maharajji's current and former students who wanted to express gratitude towards their guru by doing small pieces choreographed by him.

The first lessons of life begin at home and Pandit ji has taken under his wing, his extended family members, as part of the guru-shishya parampara. Whether it be the performances by his daughter, Mamta Maharaj, his sons, Deepak Maharaj and Jai Kishan Maharaj or his grandchildren, Ragini, Yashaswini and Tribhuvan Maharaj, each tribute was unique as it showcased a different shade of Birju Maharaj.

Just as he has given direction to his family, Maharaj ji has given more, if not the same to his students. His choreographies are his true babies and the response they got from the audience was unparalleled, especially his pieces on Naad Gunjan, Kacheri Taal Vadya Ki and the finale performance on Laya-Bhav-Katha. The crowd at IGNCA was astounded by the depth of thinking by Maharaj ji and was left gasping for more after every performance.

The tributes by senior dancers such as Jayashree Acharaya, Malti Shyam, Vaswati Misra and Rani Khannum, brought the audiences in tune with the different shades of 'bhav batana'. Their dances/ choreographies showcased the softness of grace in abhinaya while the chakkars brought the fast pace that audience most desire.

Most importantly, old and new kathak lovers rejoiced the rich repertoire of dancers that has been built by Pandit Birju Maharaj and Saswati Sen at Kalashram. The full house on all days where audiences sat till the end of each programme was the best feedback not just for performers but also the organisers. As Maharaj said during the finale performance, if the audience is not receptive, the performer also is not able to give her/his best. When the audience understands dance, catches on to nuances and applauds complex yet simple concepts, the choreographies become better and 'ras bhav' is created.

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