He has reservations on the treatment of dance in Indian films, but, given a chance to work on his own terms, legendary kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj would like to work more in Bollywood. The 75-year-old tells us, “In my opinion, dance is adulterated in Bollywood. To make it more dramatic, the dancers are asked to perform in an exaggerated manner. That makes any kind of dance impure, especially classical dance. I’d like to work more in Hindi films, provided my dance is not tampered with.”
The kathak maestro tells us that over the years he’s been highly impressed with how some female actors have showcased classical dance on screen. He adds, “Meena Kumari and Vyjayanthimala have been fabulous, and then of course, there’s Madhuri Dixit, who is the best.”
Dance exponent, Birju Maharaj, adds, “There is no one who has expressions as beautiful as her (actor Madhuri Dixit). Her eye movements are exemplary and grace exquisite.” The dancer, who has worked with Madhuri in Dil To Pagal Hai and Devdas, and also for her online dance academy, adds, “She is like a family member to me.” On being asked on how he sees the passion for dance among youngsters in the country, Birju Maharaj says, “I see that the young generation is divided in their response to classical dance. But in all my interactions with the younger lot, I have been impressed. These children have such amazing presence of mind, listening and learning while I talk and teach them.”
It is often said that classical dance doesn’t receive due credit, but the man who is an authority on the subject thinks Delhi receives the art well. “I feel that classical dance might not be on a rise, in popularity, but I have always been overwhelmed by the response that I have received in Delhi. My performances have always been applauded by packed houses in the Capital,” he opines.