The Icon of Indian Dance - Pt. Birju Maharaj

by AMITABH TRIPATHI

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About the project :

An artist extraordinaire, Pandit Birju Maharaj is internationally recognized as one of the greatest living exponents of Kathak, who performs universal stories through his refreshing flashes of genius, his natural artistic intuition, and his rootedness in the Lucknow style tradition. Considered a protégée since childhood, the legendary performing artist is appreciated not only as an international dance phenomenon but also for his many contributions to the Kathak dance form. 

Amitabh is one among those uncountable admirers of Pandit Birju Maharaj. Not only Birju Maharaj’s Kathak was mesmerizing but his journey till date was so fascinating that it left Amitabh spellbound. He then decided the subject of his next feature film.

This is a story of the life of a legend, an icon of Indian dance who carries a legacy of more than 200 years. This film will also unveil some untold & touching events of Pandit Birju Maharaj.

Show your support in helping Amitabh Tripathi immortalize this name on the screen and take his story to the world.

Story:

On Feb 4,1938 in Lucknow, born Brijmohan Nath Mishra, the leading exponent of Lucknow Kalka Bindadin Gharana of Kathak dance in India.  Popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj, he is the descendant of legendary Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, including his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj.

The Lucknow Gharana came into existence in 1784, where during the reign of Nawab Asaf Ud Daula, the descendants of Pandit Ishwari Prasad became the court dancer of Oudh Province.

Early in the 19th century, during the period of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, it attained maturity and perfection. Two of Prakashji’s sons, Durga Prasad and Thakur Prasad, served in the court of Wajid Ali Shah.

Bindadin Maharaj and Kalka Prasadji were sons of Durga Prasad and were gurus of the Nawab. Pandit Bindadin Maharaj composed thousands of arth and bhav thumris to go with Kathak. The contribution of Pandit Bindadin Maharaj is enormous to both Lucknow thumari and Kathak.

The efforts of Thakur Prasad Maharaj, his illustrious sons Bindadin Maharaj and Kalakadin Maharaj and subsequently by sons of Kalkadin Maharaj, Achchan Maharaj, Lachchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj contributed to the development of this art form of Kathak and style of Lucknow Gharana. Pandit Bindadin trained his nephew Achchan unto perfection. Achchan passed the same to his younger brothers. 

The sound of the music and dance emanating from the taalimkhana (classroom) was enough inspiration for young ‘Birju’ to devote himself wholeheartedly to dance. Though he was too young to receive formal training, he would watch carefully when his father taught his disciples. Acchan Maharaj recognized the talent and took him under his guidance.

His father performed at musical conferences all over India and by the age of seven, Birju Maharaj had accompanied him to Kanpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Dehradun, and even far off places like Madhubani, Kolkata, and Mumbai. He got the opportunity to share the platform with his illustrious father, who allowed him to present a few pieces before he himself came on stage.
Acchan Maharaj shifted to Delhi to teach at Sangeet Bharti. Birju Maharaj ji, then eight years old, enthusiastically imbibed all activities at the center. He became proficient at dancing, singing and playing the tabla. Acchan Maharaj shifted back to Lucknow with the family due to the communal riots, which raged all over the country during the pre-independence period.

His father died soon after leaving nine-year-old Birju under the guidance of Shambhu Maharaj. The following years were full of struggle and household goods were sold to make ends meet. He spent about ten months in Mumbai learning from his uncle Lacchu Maharaj. At the young age of thirteen, he was invited to join Sangeet Bharti in Delhi to teach Kathak. Soon he established himself as a good dancer and dedicated teacher.

Known for his perfect rhythm and expressive abhinaya, or gesture language, Birju Maharaj developed a style that blends elements belonging to both his uncles as well as those belonging to his father. He claimed to have inherited the precision of footwork and the play of the face and neck from his father, and the stylized fluidity of movement from his uncles. In addition to delineating episodes from the Radha-Krishna legend, Birju Maharaj innovatively used the dance form to express himself on various non-mythological and social issues. He was especially known as a brilliant choreographer, and he helped popularize dance-dramas.

Also, an accomplished singer, his renditions of thumris and dadras (forms of classical vocal music) were appreciated by many. He also played the naal, the tabla, and the violin. He composed the music and sang for two classical dance sequences in the movie Shatranj ke Khilari (1977; The Chess Players), directed by Satyajit Ray among other film work.

Over the years Birju Maharaj toured extensively and gave many performances and lecture demonstrations. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to the performing arts, including one of the country’s highest civilian honors, the Padma Vibhushan (1986).

Team info

Campaign Owners - Amitabh Tripathi & Rajesh Dutt Tripathi 

About Amitabh Tripathi -

Born on 13th May 1961, in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India and educated in Mumbai, Maharashtra, started his career as an assistant director in Hindi theater and films in 1979.

Amitabh started his own theater troupe with name Amit Arts, in 1980, and staged several plays of eminent play writes and toured with the Troupe in northern India. He then joined Creative Eye Ltd. In 1984, as Asst. Director with noted actor, director and producer Mr. Dheeraj Kumar’s most talked about television show, Kahan Gaye Woh Log and Launched Indovision Media in 1987, he produced and directed first independent documentary Film commissioned by Ministry of Environment & Forests Govt. of India titled Jan Jeevan Paryavarn, in supervision of world renowned environmentalist Late Shri Anil Agarwal and Suchitra Narayanan, Centre For Science & Environment, Delhi, after that made over one hundred seventy films for different Govt. Departments and private sector before. These short films are being screened in over thousand cinemas and multiplexes across the country, under mandatory exhibition, since 2002.

Produced and directed entertainment now, a daily news program for Mr. Pritish Nandy, Pritish Nandy Communications, aired on Doordarshan’s Metro Chanel for three years. Worked as segment director and producer for the Shri Sidhdharth Kak’s famous television show Surabhi, and noted environmentalist turned politician, Ms. Maneka Gandhi’s Heads & Tails, aired on Doordarshan.

As print and television journalist, interviewed famous personalities like lyricist Indeever, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Hasrat Jaipuri, Vocalist Kishori Amonkar, Music Maestros Klayanji Anandji, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Laxmikant of Laxmikant Pyarelal, actor Dharmendra, Mahmood, Nana Palsikar, Singers Sonu Nigam, Shubha Mudgal, Dancer Uday Shankar, and artiste painter Maqbool Fida Husain to name few.

Radio & audio biggies like Padmashri Jasdeo Singh, Harish Bhimani, Manohar Mahajan, Raajesh Johri, Sanket Jaiswal, Aleric Ferns and Khodus Wadia had lent their voices for the short films produced and directed by me.

Produced sports shows and Marathi soap for Doordarshan Shayadri, directed and co-produced Bhojpuri television serial Hamra Gaon Hamra Desh, with Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation, Republic of Mauritius. Written Directed & Produced Bhojpuri film Gaon Desh

VIDUSHI SASWATI SEN : Kathak Guru

Born to a family of legal and medical professionals, Saswati took to dance at an early age. She received her initial training at Delhi’s Kathak Kendra under the guidance of Smt. Reba Vidyarthi. She received the National Scholarship in Performing Arts and graduated to become the prime disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj.

Saswati is the proud recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akadami Award for 2004-2005 and also the Sanskriti Award, the Shringar Mani Award and the Critic’s Recommendation Award. Saswati today is regarded as an artist with immense versatility and talent and one of the best exponents of the famed Lucknow Gharana.

She has trained a large number of students, many from overseas. She has acquired the true style of her mentor and incorporates into her own presentation both the lyrical grace and rhythmic virtuosity of kathak. However, her forte isabhinaya which has always received high appreciation.

Saswati today is the driving force behind Kalashram, Pt Birju Maharaj’s dream institution and is its Secretary. She also finds time for her prime avatar as Guru and teaches the nuances of Kathak to all seekers. Saswati travels extensively at home and abroad disseminating the knowledge she has gained over years of dedication and keeps the Kalashram Kathak community together. She has choreographed several group compositions as well as dance-dramas.  

SWARAANSH MISHRA : MUSIC DIRECTOR

Music runs in their veins. His father Pt.Sajan Mishra is the most renowned classical vocalist of the living legends, ‘PadmaBhushan Pt.Rajan-Sajan Mishra’.

Even while adorning his academic career at Delhi University, Swaransh underwent rigorous training and practice sessions under the able guidance of his father Pt. Sajan Misra, uncle Pt. Rajan Misra, grandfather Pt. Hanuman Prasad Mishra and Maternal Grandfather Pt. Birju Maharaj and a galaxy of star musicians of the Banaras Gharana.

At a very tender age he took up projects with some of the great milestones of music like, The Percussion Maestro Trilok Gortu, and Pt. Rajan-Sajan Mishra, for the live concert in Mumbai ‘SPANDAN’ and has contributed for the experimental album ‘SANGAM’ comprising a true sangam of the Hindustani classical vocal by his father-uncle duo n brothers Ritesh-Rajnish Mishra and the renowned composer Micheal Nyman. He also actively participates in the projects held by Pt. Birju Maharaj for the society Kala-Ashram.

He has started his classical career by debuting in prestigious Sankatmochan festival Varanasi and has performed in many classical events like Raag Rang Festival.

Swaraansh is an artist born with a good aesthetic sense for both classical and semi-classical forms of music. Apart from Hindustani Classical Music, he enjoys playing Western Instruments(Guitar, Synthesizer...), and has some heart melting compositions on his records! An avid music-pro, he not only composes melodies but also pens songs. He plans to launch an album comprising of his compositions, early next year.

He has rendered one of his compositions, “Gum hain raaste ....” for an upcoming film`Maati`, where he plays an asst. music director to his father. Given music for a documentary named BHARAT BHAGYA VIDHATA, where he has done the symphony of INDIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM, and self-written and composed song GANGA MAYYA, which recently got awarded with DADA SAHEB FILM FESTIVAL AWARD 2014(Bangalore).

He is also leading a project VILAMBIT BLUES, which evolves the extreme classical vocal fused with western classical music, to provoke the essence of our classical heritage amongst our youth.

On technical terms, he specializes in vocal expertise inclusive of vocal tracking and its production, which helps artists fine tune their abilities in terms of tracking skills in studio environment

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