Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pt. Birju Maharaj - the living Legend...

Kathak Maestro, the living legend, seventh generation guru of kathak from the lucknow gharana (tradition), Pandit Birju Maharaj ji is in town and would be taking a week long workshop for the kathak enthusiasts, beginner as well as the advanced from all age groups and different walks of life. 
The classes start tomorrow at the Ritz Theatre and I among many other KDT (Katha Dance Theatre) student are planning to be there to be able to experience and learn kathak right from one of its only remaining original sources. 
I attended his workshop in 2009 during his previous visit to the twin cities and loved every bit of the wonderful experience. He not only teaches but composes music and choreographs steps as we go along, and as I saw last time if a certain step is too tough for younger or the lesser experienced students, he would just switch it up without holding it against the students. He is a very pleasant personality to be around.   
These pictures were taken during the workshop in 2009 and its a sheer delight to watch the ultimate guru in action. I can wait to see him tomorrow... 

Maharaj ji, composing music

Speaking to his pupils
Maharaj ji has handed over the gleaming torch of kathak legacy (Lucknow Gharana) to four of his best disciples and one of them is Saswati Sen or Saswati didi as we address her. She was maharaj ji's right hand when he was trying to teach the youngest of the group, I guess at 75+ age you need to delegate some of the responsibilities. Saswati didi is the gentlest of teacher and her mannerisms reminded me of my teachers in India, I loved her and I hope she has accompanied Maharaj ji in this tour as well.

Maharaj ji counting the beats on hand the traditional way

Teaching the mudras and the expressions
Besides the Kathak connection, I share roots with Maharaj ji as our previous generations possibly evolved from the same gene pool and had same cultural soil to prosper... Maharaj ji's tester years pictures look so much like uncle's (Dad's brother) and they might have resembled in older years too but my uncle passed away young so I can compare and say for sure. 
Maharaj ji's mannerisms remind me so much of my Father -in -law who also belongs to Lucknow and there is a certain warmth even in the reprimands of the elderly of that region, that generation... As I said can't wait to see him and introduce my girls to him tomorrow. 
That's me taking a picture and trying to be in the
same frame as Maharaj ji
There is a live show 'Concerts of the Legends ' where Maharaj ji and the best percussionist of India, Ustad Zakir Hussain on Sunday, the 16th September at the O'shaughnessy theatre in St. Paul. A must see for anyone with a musical bone or of Indian origin. You don't need to have a degree in music or dance to appreciate your own roots. Look forward to soaking it all in....

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