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Pandit Birju Maharaj’s contribution to Bollywood

Putting the spotlight on some of his most memorable work in Hindi cinema, both as choreographer and singer

Priyanka Roy  | Published 18.01.22, 01:25 AM
Pandit Birju Maharaj

Pandit Birju Maharaj

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SHATRANJ KE KHILARI

Satyajit Ray’s 1977 film, based on Munshi Premchand’s eponymous short story, had Pt. Birju Maharaj singing and choreographing the number Kanha main tose haari, that was performed on screen by his well-known disciple Saswati Sen.

 

VISHWAROOPAM

Birju Maharaj was honoured with the National Award for Best Choreography for Kamal Haasan’s moves in Unnai kaanadhu naan/ Main Radha tu Shyam in the actor-director’s ambitious bilingual project Vishwaroopam. On Monday, Kamal Haasan, in a tweet loosely translated from Tamil, paid rich tributes to Birju Maharaj: “An unparalleled artiste passed away. I learnt from him from afar like Ekalavya. In Vishwaroopam, I learnt the art by standing close to you. You have dedicated yourself to music and dance.”

 

BAJIRAO MASTANI

Deepika Padukone took kathak lessons from Birju Maharaj for Mohe rang do laal in Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani. Both graceful and glamorous, the song showcased dance and expression and had Birju Maharaj, then in his late 70s, singing it with Shreya Ghoshal.

 

DEVDAS

Birju Maharaj’s association with Madhuri Dixit was, perhaps, one of his strongest in Bollywood. After choreographing the actor in a kathak sequence for Dil To Pagal Hai in the late ’90s, the two collaborated more famously for the soulful and striking Kahe chhed mohe in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s take on Devdas. Birju Maharaj not only choreographed the song, taken to level next by Madhuri, but also composed, wrote the lyrics and sang it, Kavita Krishnamurthy for company.

The legend also choreographed and sang Jagaave saari raina in Dedh Ishqiya, featuring Madhuri. “He was a legend but had a child-like innocence. He was my guru but also my friend. He taught me the intricacies of dance and abhinay but never failed to make me laugh at his funny anecdotes. He has left behind grieving fans and students but also left a legacy we will all carry forward. Thank you Maharajji for everything you taught me in dance along with humility, elegance and grace,” was how Madhuri remembered the maestro on Monday.

 

KALANK

Perhaps one of the few highlights of the forgettable disaster called Kalank, Ghar more pardesiya — which featured Madhuri Dixit and Alia Bhatt dancing together — had the latter taking kathak lessons from Birju Maharaj. “Pandit Birju Maharaj helped me crack the expressions. I consulted him a week before we shot the song,” Alia had said when the film released three years ago.

Last updated on 18.01.22, 12:17 PM
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