This year will turn out to be a treat for classical music and dance lovers as Kalashram, founded by the legendary Pt Birju Maharaj announced year-long festivities in the honour of Maharajji’s 75th birthday celebrations, kicking off with the annual Vasantotsav 2013 which was held over four days.
As part of Vasantotsav, Kalashram organised a musical evening where U Srinivas, a Padmashri awardee and one of India’s finest mandolin players in the Carnatic musical tradition enthralled audiences.
Special guests of the evening included sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan along with his two sons, Amaan and Ayaan. With the aim to honour legends of Indian performing arts, the occasion marked the felicitation of the Ustad with the presentation of Guru Achhan Maharaj Kalajyoti Samman by Pt Birju Maharaj himself.
The evening saw the coming together of two most successful artistes on one platform, who regaled the audience with anecdotes of lives well-lived. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan stated, “Panditji is like my elder brother and we have known each other for many decades now. One of the fondest memories I have is of when I first went to the US in 1956 with him for our performances. He is great as a dancer and any praise does not do him justice.”
Also sharing his concern over lack of encouragement for young and successful artistes, Amjad Ali Khan mentioned, “Honours like Padmabhushan and Padmashri are being awarded to young Bollywood actors and sportsmen etc but not to those related to classical arts. Why are these awards given when a classical dancer turns 90 years? Are these awards given to the age or to the art?” he questioned.
Maharaj ji also shared similar views and concerns over the neglect of performing arts and he too rooted for sustained efforts towards cultural regeneration. But making light of the issue, he recalled an incident which had happened long back. “The funny part about the US visit was that we both were supposed to perform together in an auditorium. The auditorium was such that the stage was in the middle and surrounded by the audience and we didn’t have any clue whom to face. So, we joined our backs together and perfomed so that everybody could see us.”
The evening saw another facet of the multi-talented guru. Pt Birju Maharaj gave a mesmerising performance with a thumri recital, which was a departure from his inimitable Kathak performance but very welcome for the audience, who got to enjoy another side of the unmatched maestro.