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Voyage of Kathak to Bengal

Maharaj Thakur Prasad | Pic:

It was Maharaj Thakur Prasad from whom the lineage of Lucknow Gharana Kathak started. His nephews Kalka Prasad and Bindadin are Kathak legends. Then again the three nephews of Bindadin Maharaj, Acchan Maharaj, Lacchu Maharaj and Sambhu Maharaj are renowned artists of the Gharana. Their names are synonymous with Kathak. In Eastern India, particularly in Kolkata, the chief disciples of Lacchu Maharaj and Sambhu Maharaj were Ramnarayan Misra and Prahlad Das.  Pandit Ramnarayan Misra had imbibed both the major Kathak traditions of the graceful and sensual elements of Lucknow Gharana combined with the dynamic and the powerful rhythms and movements of Jaipur Gharana. His disciples Pandit Chitresh Das and Pt. Bacchanlal Misra honed their skills from him in Calcutta.

Guru Bandana Sen | Pic-FB page

In the pre-independence scenario female aspirants of Kathak contributed to the cause of Kathak by introducing the form to the middle class and upper-middle-class women. Bandana Sen coming from a very erudite upper-middle-class family of Bengal trained underLacchu Maharaj and Sambhu Maharaj in her house in Kolkata. She is one of the finest Kathak dancers of India and has been trained in the Jaipur Gharana style of Kathak, first from Jaykumari Devi and later imbibed the Lucknow style from Nritya Samrat Sambhu Maharaj. She was both a performer and mentor. In time to come Guru Bandana Sen came to be known as Kathak queen and Bhav Samrangi. She has trained numerous disciples to carry on the Kathak Parampara. Others of her class like Maya Chatterjee, Srilekha Mukherjee and Anuradha Guha got the opportunity to learn from Pandit Ramnarayan Misra and rise to the peak of fame.

During the same time, Jaylal Maharaj of Jaipur Gharanedar Kathak came to Calcutta. He was a loving teacher and a performer, whose son Ramgopal Misra set up shop and taught aspirants the art of Kathak. Among them was Sushmita Misra, whom he later married. Sushmita Misra and her daughter Kajal Misra are the repositories of Jaipur Gharana of Kathak. It is therefore interesting to see that

both the Lucknow and Jaipur Gharana of Kathak were taught side by side in Kolkata through the lineage of Bandana Sen and Sushmita Misra.

Then there was Pandit Vijay Shankar, a senior disciple of Birju Maharaj, who was brought from New Delhi to Kolkata at the behest of Shyamanand Jalan and Chetana Jalan. Pandit Vijay Shankar gave a new dimension to Kathak. The intricate nuances of Kathak were woven like fine filigree work under him. Dancers of Kolkata were inspired with his dance sensibilities and his intricacies of improvisations in fabricating innumerable rhythm patterns.

Malbika Mitra | Photo – FB page

Jaipur Gharana had speed, gait and intricate footwork, but the angik abhinaya and facial expressions incorporated by Vijay Shankar brought to Kathak a freshness that was not known before. Malabika Mitra trained under Ramgopal Misra in Jaipur Gharana had also gained proficiency in the old story-telling method of Kathak from Pandit Om Prakash Maharaj. She did not keep herself restricted to carrying on the guru-shishya parampara of the Jaipur Gharana alone. Lessons from Lacchu Maharaj for as close as a decade, from Sitara Devi and Vijay Shankar made her a complete Kathakar, well versed in both Jaipur and Lucknow Gharana. Malabika Mitra whose worth and fame as a mentor and performer has established herself as a fitting person responsible for passing on the style of Kathak to the next generation. Renowned Kathakar Chetna Jalan, the Director of Padatik Dance Centre is seriously involved in imparting Kathak training and encouraging creativity. Pandit Vijay Shankar was in the teaching faculty of Padatik for a long time. Pandit Birju Maharaj has been associated with Padatik Dance Centre from 1998. Kathakar Luna Poddar and Kathakar Ashimbandhu are equally proficient in both Jaipur and Lucknow Gharana of Kathak.Kathakar Ashimbandhu has trained under Pandit Ramgopal Misra as well as from Pandit Birju Maharaj and Pandit Vijay Shankar. Today he and Luna Poddar are leading beacons in Kathak, grooming the generation next in the art of Kathak. Paromita Moitra is a promising performing Kathakar who takes her art seriously and is a medium in handing over the rich treasure to the next generation.  Kathakar Sandeep Mullick is a mentor and performer. The list is never-ending.

Rani Karnaa | Pic – FB Page

Sangeet Natak Akdemi Award recipient Rani Karnaa who was trained by stalwarts of the Jaipur Gharana like Nrityacharya Narayan Prasad and Pandit Sundar Prasad and continued her talim under guru Hiralal and progressed in the Lucknow  Gharana ethos with Pandit Birju Maharaj runs her school Sanskritiki Sreyaskar in Calcutta. Her students carry forward her richly endowed legacy with poise, elan and grace. Sohini Debnath, Debosree Bhattacharya, Vikram Iyengar and others are her talented students. Kathakars of Calcutta are up to date with what goes on in Kathak in other parts of the country. Pandit Birju Maharaj is a regular visitor to the city along with her disciple Saswati Sen to give the dancers here a slice of the very best with workshops.

Ranjani Bhattacharjee and Souvik Chakraborty are the younger generation artists who have made a mark. Kathak in Kolkata is well established.

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