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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

I carry Lucknow along with me: Manjari Chaturvedi

Sufi-kathak dance form creator Manjari Chaturvedi has performed in 35 countries but it is the recognition that she gets in her own city Lucknow is what she cherishes the most.

lucknow Updated: Jul 08, 2019 16:15 IST
Deep Saxena
Deep Saxena
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Manjari Chaturvedi
Manjari Chaturvedi(HT Photo)
         

Sufi-kathak dance form creator Manjari Chaturvedi has performed in 35 countries but it is the recognition that she gets in her own city Lucknow is what she cherishes the most. “The feeling of being recognized in the city is very special. It is my own city. I did leave it for the pursuit of my goal but wherever I travelled I carried Lucknow with me.”

She was in Lucknow to kick-start the golden jubilee celebrations of Hoerner College, where she was a student once.

“I left the city in 2000 but people still don’t connect me with Delhi… they connect me with Awadh or Lucknow. Whatever I am today, the sensibilities that I have remain of this city. It all remained with me — Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, zabaan ki tehzeeb, sangeet or nritya,” she says.

The visit is special in many ways. “It was after 30 years that I visited Hoerner College where I was admitted in Class I. Though I was very small, I still have a distinct memory about it. The world knows me as Manjari but before I was admitted to school I was known as Mona, which was my nickname. It was during the admission process, my father wrote my name Manjari. I remember it well as suddenly I got a new name,” she says.

All her kathak training, except ‘abhinay’ that she learnt in Chennai, has happened in Lucknow under guru Pt Arjun Mishra.

“It was very heartening to see a film on me. As an ode to me, they presented my style of Sufi-kathak to the songs that I dance on. They copied my outfits and gestures from my YouTube videos. It was a wonderful feeling. I have established my form of dance (Sufi-Kathak) in 20 years and have performed in 35 countries now. But getting recognition in my own city is very special,” she says.

Besides performing she is largely focusing on ‘The Courtesan Project’ for these unsung women. “We are working on these women performers as we have not given them their due! In history book we find males as performers and ustads/gurus, while females performers are largely mentioned as nautch girls. Bindadin Maharaj performed in the court of Wajid Ali Shah so did Malika Jahan. But we were taught biography of Maharajji and not of Malika Jahan.”

Manjari Chaturvedi was in Lucknow to kick-start the golden jubilee celebrations of Hoerner College, where she was a student once.
Manjari Chaturvedi was in Lucknow to kick-start the golden jubilee celebrations of Hoerner College, where she was a student once. ( HT Photo )

It all started with Zarina Begum, a ‘mirasin’ (a variant of courtesan), in Lucknow when they both (Manjari and Zarina Begum) performed together. It was thereafter that she realized the biases the society had towards courtesans.

“We have a multi-approach to our project. We do theatrical performances with a dastango or narrator and we recreate their songs on stage and tell their stories and I perform. We do day-long seminar on them with music legends Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra and Shubha Mudgal. I have myself done 70-odd shows on them.”

Digging the history, she says, “Today in the digital era of recordings and films, thumri, dadra, kathak and ghazal have flourished. Before that, 200-300 years back, these courtesans had kept it alive but no one gives them the credit. I too dance and perform. Today government gives artistes Padma Shri and other recognition. Sadly, these older performers are called nautch girls! So, their stories need to be told and we are doing the same. We need to change the history and give them respect,” she says.

“Some people tell me that you have brought ‘tawaifs’ in fashion…Tarun Tahiliani did a fashion show ‘An ode to courtesans’ along with me,” she says.

She has no association with films for now. “I am a dancer and not a film maker! If someone wants to make a film on them I can give them my research and details. I am writing two books which is based on my 10 years of research. Maybe someone gets interested some day.”

Her 7-year-old daughter is also learning dance but not kathak. “Nazo is learning ballet and enjoying it. So, let her learn the basics and then if she wants I am there to teach her. But she takes lot of pride in my work and that’s a good feeling,” she says.

First Published: Jul 08, 2019 16:15 IST

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