Be it classical, western, free-style, or folk, Madhuri Dixit has tried her hands at all forms of dancing in one film or the other. She is passionate about the art form and has herself started tutoring children through her online platform. So, on Pandit Birju Maharaj‘s 82nd birthday today, ETimes got in touch with her exclusively to speak about the maestro, with whom the actress has collaborated on several occasions. From their first meeting, to the
jugalbandi in ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, the actor spoke about how learning from the dance master has enhanced her skill. Excerpts:

Sharing how Maharaj
ji fascinated her, she relayed, “I first witnessed Maharaj
ji dancing at the Rang Bhawan while Zakir Hussain played the tabla. His body language, expressions, poise when he danced, fascinated me. The jugalbandi at the end was exhilarating and I knew even then that I was witnessing sheer genius. I was maybe just 5 back then and was already learning Kathak but I decided I wanted to dance like him. I had watched many of his performances but met him for the first time in the USA, when I attended his workshop. I was expecting a straight dance practice but was surprised when the first thing he asked me was to show him the ‘
Ek, Do, Teen‘ move. He wondered how I do it. My respect for him soared when I discovered that he was interested in all dance forms. He has done
jugalbandis with flamenco dancers and tap dancers, who deceive Bharatnatyam. After seeing him, I really believe that once you learn a classical dance form like Kathak, you can pick up any dance form in the world.

The first piece that Maharaj composed for her was for the
jugalbandi in ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’. “This was the sequence where Shah Rukh Khan is on the drums and I am dancing in the spotlight. Maharaj ji interpreted all the drum beats as various expressions of a peacock dancing with abandon,” she exulted.

The actress also gushed about how lucky she feels to have the dancer teaching for her academy. “When I started my online dance academy, ‘Dance With Madhuri’, we wanted people from various fields of dance to come and teach on our platform. We have Remo D’Souza, Terrence Lewis, Namita Bodaji teaching Bharatanatyam. When it came to Kathak, of course, I wanted Maharaj ji to come and teach because I love his way of dancing. I was so fortunate that as soon as I talked to him, he agreed. “I would like people to go on ‘Dance with Madhuri’ and see his expressions, body movement, body language–everything is so perfect! He has made dancing into a form of science that brings out the beauty of the art form that is dance. The grace and poise, he brings to dance is amazing and I am so fortunate to have him teaching Kathak,” she said, the excitement evident in her voice.

Speaking about Pandit Birju Maharaj, as a person, Madhuri revealed, “Maharaj ji has a wonderful sense of humour and regales us with funny stories from his travels all over the world. I was so excited when he choreographed for ‘Kahe Ched Ched Mohe…’. The mudras, abhinayas, body language–I felt like I was in heaven when we were on the sets. I think his art is like the rainbow, ‘saptarangi’ but with the ‘navarasas’. It is all so inspiring and unending; for me he personifies Kathak and he is dance!” she signed off.


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By vinayak