One of the first Bollywood personalities to tweet his personal tribute to Pandit Birju Maharaj was the veteran filmmaker Subhash Ghai.
Remembering the days when he was organising a college festival where Maharaj ji was performing, Ghai remembered how he “expressed a romantic conversation” between Lord Krishna and Radha with his eyes doing the talking.
“I learnt ‘DANCE’ means the body but the soul is in the eyes. That’s why he was a Jagat Guru in Kathak,” tweeted Ghai, who’s back in the news for making his debut as music composer for the upcoming film ’36 Farmhouse’.
Among the cultural personalities who mourned the passing away of Maharaj ji was the sarod maestro, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Saheb, who tweeted that it marked the end of an era for Indian dance and Kathak.
“For me it’s been a personal loss,” Khan Saheb wrote. “He was loved immensely by my family and his memories live in our hearts forever. The heavens will dance for him today and everyday!”
Along with his tweet, he carried a rare picture of a young Birju Maharaj playing the tabla to his sarod. Besides being a renowned dancer, Maharaj ji was a talented percussionist and was also well-known for being a Hindustani classical vocalist.
Maharaj ji, in fact, composed the music and sang for the two period dance pieces in Satyajit Ray’s historical drama ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’, starring Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffery and Amjad Ali Khan.
Describing Maharaj ji as “a true legend” and “Kathak exponent par excellence”, the Bollywood veteran and Lok Sabha MP from Mathura, Hema Malini, tweeted: “His ghungroos were on his ankles till he breathed his last. I always admired and respected him as a giant of the medium of Kathak and will miss his presence on the firmament of dance.”
Maharaj ji was closely associated with the world of cinema. He choreographed the ‘Kaahe Chhed Mohe’ track picturised on Madhur Dixit in the 2002 version of the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ‘Devdas’.
And he won the National Award for choreographing ‘Unnai Kaanadhu Naan’ in the Kamal Haasan multi-lingual megahit ‘Vishwaroopam’ and the Filmfare Awards for the Bajirao Mastani number ‘Mohe Rang Do Laal’.