Recently, international Kathak fame and a gem of India, Birju Maharaj, passed away at the age of 83. Pandit Birju Maharaj was a name that gave a different splendour to the Kathak of Lucknow Gharana. Innovative experiments in traditional style. And this experiment became the new identity of Kathak.
Maharaj was not only a veteran dancer but a good singer and musician. Due to this virtuosity, he brought Kathak on the sets. Even abroad, his productions made a splash and then everything else is a legend. At present, Maharaj was synonymous with Kathak. Pandit Birju Maharaj took group dance in Kathak to a different level. He composed many dance dramas. Presented them in a very soulful manner. Earlier Kathak performances were very long. Each dancer performed for two to three hours. Maharaj shortened the time of each item and made it easy for everyone, which people could easily learn and understand.
The life of Pandit Birju Maharaj, began with struggles when his father Achhan Maharaj passed away at the age of just nine and the responsibility of the family fell on his shoulders.
He was born on February 4, 1938. He was born in the ‘Kathak-Bindadin Gharana’ of Lucknow, but faced with many challenges in his childhood, he persevered with this tradition and made his place in the line of his father Achhan Maharaj and uncle Shambhu Maharaj.
Bridged Kathak to common life:
Expression king, Birju Maharaj, did many such experiments, which connected Kathak with common life. He gave the analogy of his hand movements with the movement of files in government offices. He composed a dance drama about 40 years ago, in which he used to show sports like Kho-Kho, Cricket through Kathak postures and expressions.
Brought Kathak on the big screen:
His reputation in the world will be recorded as a key signature of Hindustani classical music, but the truth is that he was a versatile genius. Although Kathak became the goal of his life and he devoted his whole life to make this dance form recognized in the country and the world, but he was an excellent artist as well as a brilliant poet. He also mastered other forms of singing including thumri.
Due to such high virtuosity, his need was felt in the field of cinema as well. For Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’, he composed two dance dramas of high quality. In addition, he won the Filmfare Award for choreography for ‘Vishwaroopam’ in 2012 and ‘Bajirao Mastani’ in 2016. He choreographed several films like ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, ‘Gadar’, ‘Devdas’ and ‘Dedh Ishqiya’.
Honoured with innumerable awards:
Maharaj was highly revered person in the field of dance. He received many awards in his lifetime. Some major awards conferred on him are Padma Vibhushan (1986), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1964), Nritya Chudamani Award (1986), Kalidas Samman (1987), Lata Mangeshkar Award (2002), Sangam Art Award, Bharat Muni Samman, Honorary Doctorate from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya and a Honorary degree from Banaras Hindu University.