inflibnet 2019. 9. 2.¢  wajid ali shah was holding court to a gathering of poets. one...

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  • 1

    PAPER 4

    Detail Study Of Kathak, Nautch Girls, Nritta, Nritya, Different

    Gharana-s, Present Status, Institutions, Artists

    Module 7 Lukhnow Gharana Part 2

    In Kathak, each syllable is designed not merely to represent the

    sounds of feet and bells but also to be in harmony with the strokes of

    the accompanying percussion instruments. During a performance

    pieces of abstract dance may be recited before their execution, and

    the dancer may employ variation in intonation in order to sketch out

    in sound the approximate contours of the movements s/he will use.

    This padhant / पढंत, or recitation, is also a medium of communication with the percussionist(s) who must match stroke for syllable, what

    the dancer recites. Furthermore, the padhant enables the audience

    to visualize and appreciate the rhythmic patterns before they are

    revealed in dance movements.

    Different gharanas (i.e. schools) of dance not only demonstrate

    general technical differences, but significant stylistic preferences. For

    instance, the rival Jaipur style is said to emphasize the abstract

    rhythmic element of dance far more than its expressive content, and

    to such ends places footwork prominently at the beginning of the

    performance. Nevertheless, so powerful has the influence of

    Lucknow been, and in particular the artistic dominance of Birju

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    Maharaj and his family, that nowadays there is a great deal more

    homogeneity in Indian Kathak dance styles than in former days.

    The Kathak Kendra in New Delhi where Birju Maharaj teaches is a

    perennial hive of activity from which many of the new generations of

    dancers have emerged over the past few decades. Guru Munna Lal

    Shukla, a close relative of Birju Maharaj, also teaches at the Kathak

    Kendra; he has for some years been the subject of important new

    research into the Lucknow school of Kathak by his Canadian student

    Deepti Gupta.[6] Besides dancers of the Lucknow tradition, the

    Kathak Kendra's policy has been to employ dancers of the Jaipur

    tradition also. Of course, although Lucknow has its own Kathak

    Kendra where excellent dancers such as Kapila Raj (student of Lacchu

    Maharaj) and Ram Mohan (son of Shambhu Maharaj) have taught in

    recent years, and a programme in dance at the famous Bhatkhande

    Music College under Professor Purnima Pande, Kathak has become

    popular throughout India and abroad.

    Although it is not possible to mention all the talented dancers of the

    modern era, some of the most notable are Sitara Devi (Bombay),

    who has performed in many films; Rohini Bhate (Pune); Kumudini

    Lakhia (Ahmedabad); Maya Rao (Bangalore); Uma Sharma (Delhi);

    Rani Karna (Calcutta); Rina Singha (Toronto); Chitresh Das

    (California); Joanna Das (Toronto); Vijai Shankar (Calcutta and Japan);

    Saswati Sen (Delhi), arguably Birju Maharaj's most famous disciple,

    who danced in Satyajit Ray's celebrated film based in Lucknow,

    Shatranj Ke Khiladi or The Chess Players; and Veronique Azan, a

    Delhi-based French dancer who also studied under Birju Maharaj.

    Other students have taken Kathak far beyond India's borders: for

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    instance it is taught at the Peking Opera and in many schools in

    Europe and North America.

    As with any living tradition, Kathak has always continued to evolve:

    amad and parmelu were not always part of the dance tradition,

    particularly in the pre-Muslim era; and the temple and the village

    square have given way to the court and theatre and different styles

    of dance presentation. Soloists still dominate the genre, as always,

    but increasingly common are elaborately choreographed productions

    involving Kathak dance troupes, for instance, Krishnayan, and Katha

    Raghunath Ki (presented in Delhi in 1978 by Birju Maharaj). Perhaps

    the most important of all, the themes on which dance items are

    based have evolved with the times, especially during the 1970s and

    1980s: these include abstract ideas as well as topical issues such as

    the different rhythms in nature and social life (Talatmika,

    choreographed by Birju Maharaj in 1988), life and death (Udgaar,

    choreographed by Rohini Bhate in 1987), and physical and mental

    handicaps (Setu, choreographed by Kumudini Lakhia in 1987).

    Although Bindadin had no male offspring, Kalka Prasad had three

    sons who, in turn, became the dominant forces in kathak during the

    early to mid-twentieth century: Acchan Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj,

    and Shambhu Maharaj. Acchan Maharaj (1883-1947), "though of a

    heavy and unwieldy build was extremely gifted and while performing

    transformed into a different person, the very model of agility and

    grace" (Kothari 1989: 32). He specialized in bhava, the expressional

    aspect of dance that deals with the depiction or characterization of

    mood. Acchan Maharaj was responsible for the training of his

    younger brothers, and he was also engaged to dance in several North

    Indian courts before being invited to teach in the Delhi School of

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    Hindustani Music and Dance from 1936 onwards. Lacchu Maharaj

    (1901-78) spent much of his life in Bombay creating and directing

    dance-dramas and choreographing for films. He was noted for bringing to Kathak "a fragile elegance and beauty. His chals or walks

    were a treat to watch. The micro movements of the eyes, eyebrows,

    wrists, fingers and the movements of the torso and the chest were

    superb. The delicacy that he brought to his movements put him in a

    class by himself" (Kothari 1989: 33). Shambhu Maharaj (1910-70)

    was a charismatic and flamboyant character who danced with great

    power and energy but who could also bring to a thumri / ठुमरी an inexhaustible variety of interpretations which he performed with the

    subtlest of movements from the sitting position. He enjoyed a

    glittering stage career, and in 1952 was invited to join the Bharatiya

    Kala Kendra in Delhi where he became head of the department of

    Kathak (Misra 1991: 21).

    Arguably the most important function of a description such as this is

    to encourage readers to attend a performance and see for

    themselves Kathak's elegant swirling movements, lightning quick

    pirouettes, its sudden poses, the rapid stamping of feet, and the

    subtle gestures capable of expressing the fullest possible range of

    emotions.

    The word Kathak derives from katha, a story. A Kathak is therefore

    one who tells a story, and from ancient times traditional classes, and

    later castes, of story-tellers specialized in conveying through dance

    and music tales from the great Indian epics and scenes from the lives

    of the gods. Their role was therefore to teach as well as to entertain

    with the aid of an extremely rich and highly sophisticated poetic

    literature in Sanskrit and Brajbhasha.

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    Durga Prasadji was in the service of the King, from whom he received

    a pension to help with the upbringing of his children. Also in the

    King's service was a great pakhawaj drummer, Kodau Singh, who was

    jealous since his family did not share this privilege. When Kodau

    Singh made his complaint known to Wajid Ali Shah, it was decided

    that the matter should be settled by a contest between the dancer

    and the pakhawaji. If the latter were to win he would, as requested,

    receive the dancer's pension; if not he would forfeit his hands! Durga

    Prasadji became worried since he was getting old, and he feared that

    his failure to win the contest would ultimately bring about the end of

    his family tradition. At this point Durga Prasadji's gifted seven-year-

    old son Bindadin Maharaj stepped in to beg his father to allow him to

    compete instead, saying "Since all this is happening because of me, it

    should therefore be me who dances in the contest". Durga Prasadji

    finally agreed, and in preparation for the contest Bindadin

    immediately embarked on the rigorous practice of rhythmic

    footwork to the exclusion of all else.

    A month later everyone gathered in the court in an atmosphere of

    tremendous excitement. The young Bindadin began dancing in quick

    tempo, and Kodau Singh accompanied him accordingly. Neck to neck

    they danced and played for twelve hours. Neither had gained the

    upper hand. The King had become restless and hungry but the court

    insisted that he not leave his throne even for a second. Bindadin

    suddenly doubled his tempo and continued relentlessly for a further

    four hours. He ultimately danced so quickly that his feet became a

    blur to the eye. Exhausted and confused, the pakhawaji / पखावज lost track of the rhythm for a split second and committed an error.

    Bindadin had won. The line of Durga Prasadji had been saved!

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    The King summoned Durga Prasadji and asked him to name his

    reward. Durga Prasadji merely said "I want nothing but that you

    spare the hands of the Kodau Singh". His wish was granted, but the

    emb