Birju Maharaj, Virtuoso of Indian Classical Dance, dies at 83

Birju Maharaj, who is revered in India as an artist of one of the country’s oldest and oldest forms of classical dance, and a choreographer for Bollywood hits and classic films. classic of India by directors such as Satyajit Ray, passed away on January 16 in New Delhi. He was 83 years old.

A niece, Ragini Maharaj, told India’s Press Trust news agency the cause appeared to be a cardiac arrest while he was on dialysis.

Mr. Maharaj perform in the Kathak tradition, whose origins are more than 2,000 years old, according to some evidence. The Kathak dance has been performed in courts across the country and is popular in both Hindu and Muslim cultures. It is one of eight classical dance genres in India, each largely based on the region and each with its own complex and varied vocabulary.

Kathak’s lineage is associated with three cities in the central Indian states of Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow and Banares) and Rajasthan (Jaipur). Mr. Maharaj was traditionally raised from Lucknow, a form that has become widespread.

Kathak is the tradition most associated with live music. Dancers, using steps and facial expressions, tell a story, often inspired by ancient Indian epics. But it is also a virtuoso art, elaborate rhythms, often tight rhythms that suddenly stop above the beat.

Maharaj’s eyes, mouth, arm gestures and foot movements are all part of the Amazing skills and charm by which he made Kathak famous. Like some other Indian genres, Kathak uses anklets carrying dozens of small bells that jingle with bare feet; The sound of Mr. Maharaj’s anklets is often astonishing.

Brij Mohan Nath Mishra was born on February 4, 1938, of the seventh generation of a prominent Kathak family, known as the Maharaj for their mastery of the arts.

He received his first dance training from his father, Jagannath Maharaj (commonly known as Acchan Maharaj) who was a royal dancer in the state of Rajgarh who became his son’s guru and co-star. The British still dominated India when Birju, at the age of 7, gave her first public performance.

Two years later, his father died and Birju’s two uncles – Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj – continued to study dance. When India gained independence in 1947, Kathak achieved new glory, with Birju being the leading exponent.

He moved to New Delhi when he was a young boy. At the age of 13, he began teaching Kathak at Sangeet Bharati, an important performing arts school. By the age of 20, he was already nationally known as one of his country’s great dancers. He also practices and performs Hindustani vocals, composes new music, plays various instruments, writes poetry and paints.

He continued to teach, with his uncle Shambhu, at dance schools in New Delhi, opening his own school, Kalashramyear 1998.

Mr. Maharaj married Annapuran Devi in ​​1956. They have three daughters, Kavita, Anita and Mamta, and two sons, Jaikishan and Deepak. Both his son and daughter Mamta are leading figures in the practice of Kathak. Mr. Maharaj’s wife passed away in 2008. There is no complete list of survivors.

Early in his career, he participated in art troupes sent abroad by the Indian government. When period dramas and mythologies became the norm in the 1970s, he choreographed several films, some with Mughal themes. During the 1980s, he focused on abstract, purely rhythmic compositions. Both humor and sensibility have become part of his storytelling, along with math and math.

He has choreographed several dances for Indian films, starting with Satyajit Ray’s classic.”Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khiladi)” (In 1977). He has also done some famous dances in popular Bollywood movies like “Devdas” (2002) and “Dedh Ishqiya” (2014).

Maharaj taught the Kathak dance to movie star Deepika Padukone in the movie “Bajirao Mastani” (2015). He won the Filmfare Award, a major award of the Indian film industry, for best choreography among “Mohe Rang Do Laal” in that movie.

Widely known as Pandit Birju Maharaj – Pandit alludes to skill, scholarship and authority – he has danced in Europe and the United States, visiting Washington in 2014 and New York in 2019.

At least in his late 70s, Maharaj showed how Kathak was able to present a wonderful, jazz-like crossover with its musical accompaniment while remaining an art of both communication. and playing. He was devoted to his musicians, always with them. They often teased him when he performed with intricate sequences of rhythms to which he would happily rise.

He also shows that dance is part of something bigger: a response to nature and the divine. Birju Maharaj, Virtuoso of Indian Classical Dance, dies at 83

Fry Electronics Team

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