Birju Maharaj bats for artistic compositions on environment issues

Birju Maharaj
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By Sahana Ghosh

Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh- Dancing like a peacock in the rain, leading Kathak exponent Pandit Birju Maharaj held audiences here spellbound with his new composition. Soon after, confessing his ardent love for nature, the face of Indian Kathak in the world stressed on more artistic creations on key environmental issues.

“I really love nature. Whatever I feel, as inspired from nature, I try to bring it out. There should be compositions on environmental issues (like climate change, natural resource depletion et al) for the people, the veteran told IANS in an interview at the Amaravati Global Music and Dance Festival here.

Birju Maharaj performed with his ensemble, including danseuse Saswati Sen, at the Pavitra Sangamam amphitheatre, straddling the confluence of the Krishna and Godavari rivers.

Birju Maharaj

Talking to IANS after his performance, the Padma Vibhushan awardee expressed displeasure at the man-made “disruption” of natural balance.

“I see big buildings going up, the earth being dug out and nature harmed. Our environment should be preserved. The balanced is being disrupted. It pains me. You see metro construction happening all across. Although this is for our convenience, but it shouldn’t happen at the cost of disrupting the natural balance,” he lamented.

The torch-bearer of the Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Lucknow, Birju Maharaj is a direct descendant of Ishwari Prasadji, the first known Kathak teacher.

Admitting his voracious appetite for nature-related TV programmes, he said he sees rhythm in every step of life and that is what keeps him ticking at 79.

“I watch a lot of Discovery and Animal Planet. If you see a lion walking or a cheetah running, you find rhythm in every movement, in every step. There is rhythm in everything in life. When this rhythm stops, everything stops. For example, for one who is walking at a slow pace, we would co-relate it with the introductory ‘vilamvit laya’ (slow tempo) in the Hindustani classical genre,” Birju Maharaj said counting out the beats.

“This rhythm in nature should keep going and we have a responsibility to do that because humans have a connection with their surroundings,” he explained with a smile of contentment.

At the young age of 28, the living legend received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, besides several other prestigious awards like the Kalidas Samman, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Shiromani Samman and Rajiv Gandhi Peace Award. He has been conferred honorary doctorate by Banares Hindu University and Chhattisgarh’s Khairagarh University.

Asked about his future projects/compositions, the master artiste said a lot of things simultaneously go on in in his mind.

“There are a lot of things I am inspired by. For example, dancing here tonight, at the riverfront, I was taken by the sacred confluence of the rivers. It is also always enchanting to dance in a temple courtyard. The compositions will come as the inspirations come,” he signed-off with a twinkle in his eye. (IANS)


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