For 25 years, Ragini Makkhar has passionately taught youngsters the art of Kathak at her academy Naadyog, striving to keep alive one of India's most beautiful classical dance forms.
This weekend, the college teacher from Indore finally found her place under the sun when she and her troupe of 13 students won the highly popular reality show, India's Got Talent Season V
One of the high points of her performances over three months was her Kathak recitals set to the tunes of popular Bollywood numbers, which left the three judges highly impressed and the audience cheering for more.
Her act of dancing on water was the pièce de résistance which ultimately swayed the judges in her favour and helped her win the crown.
Born in Pune, Ragini moved to Indore after marriage before she started training under the traditional guru-shishya paranpara by exponents Shama Bhate and Pt Suresh Talwalkar.
Later, she continued her education under the guidance of Dr Suchitra Harmalkar in Indore.
Ragini spoke to HT after returning from Mumbai post her win at the show.
Here are the excerpts: Did you expect to win this competition?
Yes, we were hopeful of winning
but getting recognition on such a big stage is a dream come true for any artiste and I am elated at this success. I can say we have been able to achieve the dream we had gone ahead with.What was the important part of your performances?
We implemented Bollywood music to Kathak dance, but the style and dance form was pure. Performing on such a big platform I wanted to do something which people would like to inculcate after seeing us. There are so many people who want to learn western form of dances such as hip hop or salsa but very few like to learn Indian classical dance forms. I wanted to showcase the art form keeping the youth in mind. How did you go about it?
I took Bollywood songs and infused Kathak beats in them. The popular music helped us in connecting with people who are not inclined towards classical dance. When did you think of going for this competition?
We got an offer in February 2013 but were unable to go ahead due to lack of funds. We again missed a chance for the same reason a few months later. Finally, after getting support from parents and other sponsors we were able to go to Delhi and participate in the auditions. It was a series of auditions and interviews which gave us an entry to the show. What were difficulties you faced?
The biggest was, we did not have funds. People sponsor big celebrities but it is impossible to think of sponsors for Kathak performers. What would you say to the judges in the show?
Getting a standing ovation was really encouraging. All three of them are talented in their own form and portray all the experience to be there. Karan (Johar) is my favourite and I would love to thank Kirron (Kher) and Malaika (Arora Khan) for supporting me throughout. Who do you think were your tough competitors?
It is really tough to single out one performer from the whole group of finalists. The show was about giving talent a platform and all were deserving. I wouldn't be able to pick one. What do we see next?
Generally Bollywood films don't include classical dance forms. A lot can be done with classical dance forms in films and I would like to do that. I love Karan Johar's films and if given a chance I would like to choreograph in his films by going ahead with what I have done in the show. People haven't seen much of classical dance in films and I am sure audience would appreciate my innovations. Also, I will continue teaching at The Daly College. Kids are the ones who would take our tradition forward and I think our win will inspire others to take up this art form.