What with the launching of Kathak Kendra’s 50th anniversary year and Birju Maharaj’s 75th birthday, the Kathak community was in a celebration mode.

At the feet of the master

With the entire Kathak world deciding to celebrate Spring, one could only take in bits and pieces of each festival.

Nothing became the three-day “Vasantotsav” of Kalashram — heralding this year the 75 years of contribution by its founder Pandit Birju Maharaj — as the outpouring of love and goodwill for the master from disciples, descending on the Capital from every corner of the world.

Whether it was Durga Arya from Germany where she has been settled the last few years, or Kajal Sharma from the U.K., or Satyanarayana Balkaran Singh from Trinidad or B.K. Sinha who runs the Kathak institution in Chicago in the name of his late wife, or Gauri Sharma from the U.K. or Rita Mustafi from Mineapolis, apart from several old disciples from Mumbai and Delhi, like Arushi Pokrial (partnered by Varun) and Dr. Neelam, the message reinforced with undeniable conviction was the adulation for a worthy guru, regarded as the guiding star of each disciple’s life, no matter in which professional discipline he is engaged today.

It was a nostalgic walk down memory lane, tears in the eyes for some seeing enacted excerpts from Maharaji’s innumerable creations for Kathak, starting with his own performance in Malti Madhav as Makarand by the then young ‘Brijmohan’, partnered by the young Kumudini Lakhia. “Sham-e-Awadh”, “Krishnayan” (“Tore Bina mora lage na”), “Shahi Mehfil”, “Mughal Duet”, “Katha Raghunath”, “Laya Parikrama”, “Ghungroo Tarang”, “Naad Gunjan”, “Thumri Malika Lilangika” and a host of other works, with veterans like Krishna Mohan, Vaswati, Saswati, Krishna Mohan, Jai Kishan Maharaj, Durga Arya, Neelima (then Azan), made one wonder about the countless dancers groomed under the baton of this guru. Meanwhile among the youngsters that Kalashram is encouraging, 13-year-old tablist Ashish, son of Nayan Ghosh, whether playing a kayeda or bandish of Delhi gharana, amply demonstrated he is well on the way to a fine career.

Four-year-old Rudraksha Srivastawa already has style and confidence in his tabla playing. Inspired renditions marked all the fervent homage to the guru.

Saddening this critic was the thought of how exceptional talents, still supremely graceful and finished performers, like Jai Kishan Maharaj and Nandini Singh, have allowed their instrument, the body, to become so out of shape?