Symphony of Sufi strains and kathak

Poise and mysticism defines Sufi kathak dancer Manjari Chaturvedi. Performing Darbari kathak after a long time, it was no surprise that the audience were left awestruck.

Her eye movements in sync with swift hand movements created a mesmerising aura which enveloped the audience all through the performance. After all, it was Zarina Begum, the popular and last courtesan ghazal singer of her times who gave voice to her act.

The 83-year-old traditional Indian ghazal singer Zarina began the programme with Deewana banana hai to deewaana bana de. Dressed in a resplendent purple lehenga, Manjari presented the whole act in sitting posture.

She only played with her eyes and hands to convey the feeling of lovers. She maintained the beauty of the courtesan artiste in the second composition
too – Un aankhon ka aalam gulabi gulabi.

Finally, she performed the darbari kathak on Koeliya mat kar pukar and Woh jot um ho humare karar.

She also presented dadra Kaun albeli kanar jhamajham paani bharegi.

She choreographed these three songs in her own style, which was always dominated by beautiful expressions, excellent footwork and graceful movements.

Manjari, founder of Sufi Kathak Foundation, last performed with Zarina way back in 1999 in Lucknow.

Talking to Metrolife, she said, “The programme is dedicated to Zarina Begum, disciple of Begum Akhtar. I met her last year. She was living in one room which was in a deplorable condition. Once the queen of all mehfils, she was struggling for survival. But even though she is paralysed from waist down, she told me ‘ek Banarsi sari pehankar  gaane ka mann hai ( want to wear a Banarsi sari and
sing a song).”

“She belongs to a generation where people prefered small mehfil gayaki.

The singer used to address their specific audience with ghazal, qawwali and dadra. They would present a concert as per the preference of their audience in court.

With the passage of time, things have changed. You cannot ask these courtesan singers to perform in a gathering of hundreds.

They don’t know what to sing, what people will enjoy. Therefore, they find themselves totally dislocated in today’s world,” says Manjari.

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