Culture is the foundation of the Indian identity. The performing arts in India have been developed over centuries by storytellers, and storytellers are a potent link to reveal the secret that encourages free thinking and creative expression without any dilution of the essence.
One such great storyteller of our time, Pt. Birju Maharaj, who was not only a maestro dancer, but a poet, singer and percussionist too.
Dastaan-e-Kathak: The Story of a Storyteller is a two- day festival to celebrate art in all forms on 3rd and 4th February 2023 at multiple venues in New Delhi. An initiative by Kathak Day Trust to commemorate the fourth of February, birth anniversary of Pt. Birju Maharaj as World Kathak Day. It is a movement to initiate a revival in the way performing arts are perceived in India - using storytelling as a tool to appeal to a wider audience. It is an attempt to spark a revival in the well-known but often forgotten principles of Indian philosophy.
The two-day festival is inclusive, interdisciplinary, creative and a modern interpretation of his philosophy to celebrate the life and learnings of one of the world’s greatest performing arts maestros - Pandit Birju Maharaj. The vision of this initiative is to inspire future generations to be an engaged community of Rasiks (informed connoisseurs of the arts).
Spread over multiple venues and multi-disciplinary activities, the event has been thoughtfully curated by Shivani Varma, Kathak dancer and Founder, Kathak Day Trust. The program is inspired by Maharaj ji, a true Kathak* with his many artistic facets and interests.
3rd February - Day One at Sunder Nursery: The evening began with an audio-visual retrospective on Pt. Birju Maharaj titled ‘When You Dance’, an experiential walk down memory lane by one of India’s most celebrated performing arts photographers, Innee Singh.
This was followed by an interdisciplinary act ‘Tat Tvamasi’, inspired by Maharaj ji as a poet and percussionist. This piece directed by Shivani Varma, was a live presentation of five different traditional dance forms by young dancers along with the accompanying percussion to show how all dance forms are based on a common source of laya, taal and raga.
The next act was a piece on Lucknow by master storyteller, Muzaffar Ali. He presented stories from Lucknow, inspired by Maharaj ji’s love for the place along with a dance performance.
The evening concluded with a musical tribute (khayal) by maestro vocalist Pt. Sajan Mishra, who interspersed his recital with personal anecdotes and stories about Maharaj ji.
*Kathak similarly is a Sanskrit word for “Storyteller” and in its original meaning encompasses not only a dance form but an entire cultural identity.
Shivani Varma, Curator and Founder of Kathak Day Trust said, “We want to celebrate him in a way that resonates with his presence, that even though absent physically, the power of his teachings will always live on. And in a way that shows how much he impacted most aspects of performing arts in India in contemporary times.”
She further added, “We will not dilute any of the tradition but will add our own cultural twists through the narrative of the evening, and endeavour to connect the youth to the Indian performing arts. We want to engage with the young adults and younger generations to be the rasik -jan, so that they become keen ambassadors of the Indian identity in the global scenario.”
Day Two: Saturday, 4th February at 3.30pm at Lodhi Art District: Dastaan-e-Kathak The Story of a Storyteller started with the unveiling of the mural on Maharaj ji at the prominently located Block 6 of Lodhi Art District by lengedary flautist Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia.
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Shivani Varma, Founder - Kathak Day Trust said, "Painting was one of Maharaj ji’s hobbies and this mural is a fond recollection of that aspect of his interests, as also a mark of respect of the Guru-Shishya Parampara of India. A disciple’s search for a physical space to remember the Guru."
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