A legend and an institution in himself, Pandit Birju Maharaj mesmerised several generations of artists and audiences worldwide with his Kathak skills. The icon, an accomplished vocalist and musician, represented Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Lucknow and played all string instruments including Sitar, Sarod, Violin and Sarangi.
Maharaj established Kalashram that imparts training in the field of Kathak in the capital city of India. Recipient of Padma Vibhushan, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Kalidas Samman, among other coveted accolades, Maharaj breathed his last on January 16, 2022. Remembering the Kathak maestro through his precious contribution to film industry in the form of unforgettable choreographies:
For any dancer in the world, working with Madhuri Dixit is a delight, even for the legend, Pandit Birju Maharaj himself who called the actress the best Bollywood dancer. For Kahe Chhed Mohe, Maharaj wrote the lyrics, composed the music, and choreographed the entire song beautifully. The dance represents the portrayal of bhaav in the truest sense. Speaking of Madhuri, Maharaj on one occasion said, “She has the bhav and bhavana in her eyes and grace in her movements.”
2. Bajirao Mastani
Deepika Padukone had the good fortune of taking Kathak lessons from Maharaj for the song Mohe Rang Do Laal. The Sanjay Leela Bhansali composition in his romantic epic saga won Filmfare Award for Best Choreography. The legendary Kathak exponent even sang the number alongside Shreya Ghoshal.
This extraordinary piece won Maharaj the National Film Award for Best Choreography. The song has superstar Kamal Haasan move to the beats and effortlessly perform the choreography as taught by Maharaj. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composed the song sung by Kamal and Shankar Mahadevan.
4. Dedh Ishqiya
Once again, Madhuri got the golden opportunity to work under the tutelage of Maharaj, who turned singer as well choreographer for this track. The Abhishek Chaubey directorial had a wonderful dance performance by Madhuri. Gulzar penned the lyrics for the song composed by Vishal Bhardwaj.
5. Shatranj Ke Khilari
Maharaj directed, composed music and crooned two classical dance sequences in the Satyajit Ray film. One was a mujra sequence filmed with Wajid Ali Shah (Amjad Khan), and another was a solo dance creating the backdrop of an important sequence of the story.
6. Umrao Jaan
Rekha won the National Film Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a classical courtesan in Muzaffar Ali’s film. Speaking of the actress, the Kathak legend once said that her eyes and her style speak a million words. Gopi Krishna was also one of the main choreographers for the film’s songs.
Maharaj choreographed a group dance performance based on the song 'Aan Milo Sajana' in the film Gadar. The backdrop of the track showed lead actress Ameesha Patel’s turmoil.
8. Dil To Pagal Hai
Maharaj directed and composed a classic music piece for the film as a jugalbandi. Madhuri gracefully performed the dance in the Kathak style and charmed everyone with a contemporary touch.
RIP Pandit Birju Maharaj Ji!