Guru, inspiration and teacher!
Young kathak artiste Shinjini Kulkarni credits her guru, Pt Birju Maharaj, as the biggest blessing in her life. She values his teachings and the personal relationship they shared. Deepmala Sachan also cherishes her relationship with her guru, Kumkum Dhar, who trained her in kathak and heavily influenced her life. Kumkum Adarsh remembers her guru, Pandit Lachhu Maharaj, who taught her confidence and how to face her fears. She established the Lachhu Maharaj Ballet Centre in his honor after his demise.
‘Meant more than a guru to me’
Young kathak artiste Shinjini Kulkarni feels that the teachings of her guru and maternal grandfather Pt Birju Maharaj are the biggest blessings in her life. “Coming from a family where everyone is an expert, you learn from everyone. Nana had easy ways to engrain things into you. In a little time, he used to tell you such nuances that you can practice that all your life. Guru se upar ka rishta tha (he meant more than a guru to me)… he used to take us for films, chaat-papdi and what not! The biggest lesson I learnt is to stay true to the pure art form.”
She adds, “My mother Anita Kulkarni is a visual artist, which I also inherited and as a hobby I paint and do clay modelling, but my passion is performing arts. Inspired by nana, I am also teaching kids from humble backgrounds for the last six years.”
Following in on her guru’s footsteps
Deepmala Sachan was barely 12 years old when she first met her guru, Kumkum Dhar, a former vice-chancellor of Bhatkhandey Music University in Lucknow. “We lived in the same apartment building. The sound of ghungroo (which is an anklet worn by classical dancer) that often came from her house got me into kathak. My mother took me to her and she trained me as per the ‘guru-shishya parampara’. My best memory is when I used to wait the entire week for Saturday. That was the day of the week when I stayed back with her and returned the next morning,” says Sachan, who topped her class at Bhatkhandey and currently teaches students in Singapore. “Last year, I was not satisfied with a performance of mine and was upset over it. Guruji came to me and said “it was perfect”. Those words still echo in my head. Not just my art but my daily life is heavily influenced by her.”
‘Maharaj ji taught me to face my fears’
Kumkum Adarsh, a Kathak exponent, remembers her guru, the great Pandit Lachhu Maharaj.
“Maharaj ji returned from Mumbai to Lucknow in 1971 after working on movie projects such as Mahal, Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah. I was barely 10 years old when I met him for the first time. He was 70, and so graceful that it can’t be expressed in words,” says Adarsh.
The veteran artiste adds: “When he started Kathak Kendra in 1972, I was his first student on the register. He instilled confidence in me and taught me how to face the audience without fear. He knew how to bring out the best in me.”
After his demise in 1978, she established Lachhu Maharaj Ballet Centre in 1982, which was approved by the ICCR and inaugurated by Sitara Devi.
“I also got his statue installed in Golaganj in 1996 and since then we have been organising events on birth anniversary (September 1),” she adds.