The Kathak fraternity of Toronto reminisced about Legendary Kathak Maestro Pt Birju Maharaj Ji and paid tribute to him through SAMARPAN, an event organized by Rashmi Academy of Performing Arts – RAPA Global in association with Moksha Canada Foundation. Pt Birju Maharaj Ji is a synonym to Kathak, which is one of the eight main genres of ancient classical dance originating from India, and dates back to the 4th century BC. Pandit Birju Maharaj, the torchbearer of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin Gharana was a leading Kathak dancer, a marvellous singer, a generous teacher, a creative painter, a poet and a drummer. He was the recipient of the second highest Indian civilian award Padam Vibhushan, the youngest SNA Awardee, an Honorary doctorate from Banaras Hindu University and so many other accolades in his name. His style had restored the traditional glory of Kathak, yet made it establish a strong connection with the contemporary world. A style that is being followed by dancers across Gharanas. A style that has put Kathak on the global map.
The event organized to commemorate him had witnessed the very senior Kathak artists Rina Singha Ji, Vaishali Panwar Ji, Joanna Ji, famous sarangi player Pankaj Mishra Ji, Singer Chandan Paul Ji and other eminent personalities from the creative world come under one roof and shared the memories about Maharaj Ji. The event started with the Lighting of Diya. Gurus from all over the world Vidushi Saswati Sen Ji, Guru Pratap Pawar Ji, Guru Jai Kishan Maharaj ji, Vidushi Ruby Mishra Ji, Guru Pt Rajendra Gangani Ji have sent their wishes and memories about the maestro. The whole program was conceptualized by Rashmi Mishra who is the disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj Ji. She moved to Toronto from India a while ago and started a branch of her Mumbai-based dance academy at North York and Scarborough with Moksha Arts. She has been teaching for the last three decades and also pursuing PhD in Kathak. The audience was mesmerized by the creativity and work of the maestro by watching a documentary about his life, his work and performances of his compositions by the students of the Rashmi Academy of Performing Arts – RAPA. Rashmi Mishra also paid tribute to her guru through her beautiful dances, leaving the audience spellbound. The venue was packed with art lovers and each of us remembered Pt. Birju Maharaj Ji’s work and dedication towards Indian culture and Kathak. The program was beautifully hosted by Vaishali Joshi and supported by Sunil Channan of the Moksha Canada Foundation. The guests were presented with a shawl written ‘Brijshyam Kahe’, his pen name and a beautiful hand-painted peacock feather.
Pandit Birju Maharaj pioneered his work. He choreographed several successful dance dramas including Kumar Sambhav, Malti Madhav, Naad Gunjan, Nritta Keli, Krishnayan etc. His Bollywood choreographies from the movie ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’to ‘Kaahe Chhed Mohe’ from Devdas to Dedh Ishqiya are still fresh in the audience’s heart. He received the Film fare award for the song ‘Mohe rang do laal’ for the movie Bajirao Mastani. Later he bagged the National Film award and Vijay Award for choreographing the song ‘Unnai Kaanatha Naan’ for the Kamal Haasan starrer ‘Vishwaroopam.
Pandit Birju Maharaj Ji was an icon of Indian dance, who has thousands of students across the globe. He will be an inspiration in the field of Kathak for generations to come. He will always be alive through his teachings and learnings in the heart of his disciples and art lovers.