Mumbai, Feb 20: The celebrated Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj has questioned Bollywood star Katrina Kaif's dancing ability, saying she can only shake, but can't dance ( hilna aata hai, naachna nahin aata).
In an interview to Bombay Times, Birju Maharaj, who has worked for Devdas, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Dil To Pagal Hai, says: "Just the other day, I was watching Katrina Kaif on TV.
"Usko naachna nahi, hilna bolte hai! Today's heroines have no personality and can't carry a dance on their own shoulders.
"They are nowhere in the same league as Waheeda Rehman or Meena Kumari and think that whatever they do is the right thing."
The Kathak maestro had words of praise for Madhuri Dixit and Kamal Hasan: "It was a pleasure to work with Madhuri Dixit, who attended my workshops twice.
"She has no ego hassles and even after a dance sequence was okayed, she asked for suggestions.
"I get many offers to choreograph for films but turn most of them down.
"Recently, I taught Kamal Haasan a few Kathak steps for his film Vishwaroopam. He is a very eager learner. "
Pandit Birju Maharaj says with a hearty laugh: " I ask a director, heroine kapde pehnegi na. I can't imagine a song choreographed by me being presented in a vulgar way.
"I would never do songs with lyrics like kursi ke neeche or khatiye ke upar.
"See, Helen never looked vulgar while doing all those cabaret songs.
"Today, to sell films, directors end up showing women dancing to cabaret songs even in jungles. It looks terrible."
What about today's youngsters? Birju Maharaj says: "Even if five percent of the students that we teach end up pursuing the form seriously, it's heartening.
"God has blessed me with this ability to teach Kathak in a simple manner to kids and I will keep doing it till my last breath."
Recounting his old days, Birju Maharaj said: "At the age of six,I was employed by the Nawab of Rampur and earned Rs 21 as salary.
"On days, the Nawab would send for me even as late as 2.30 am because he wanted to watch me perform.
"I remember my sister putting kajal in my eyes, while I would want to go back to sleep!
"I didn't wish the Nawab well at such times. I gave my first public performance at the age of seven in front of legends at Delhi and since then, I have never looked back."
About his late uncle Lachhu Maharaj, he said: " I remember he would keep telling me to move to Mumbai.
"But my mother asked me what would happen to our family tradition.And I never thought of it again.
"When he (Lachhu Maharaj) passed away,I asked for a rare book on Kathak that he had, to keep with me."
" Come what may, our classical art forms are very rich and they will withstand all kinds of onslaught from Western forms."