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Tribute to grand old lady of Kathak
- Vijay Shanker, Mumbai

February 12, 2012

The grand old lady of Kathak, Pandita Ramadevi Lachchu Maharaj died at the age of 86 in Mumbai on 24th December 2011. Sadly her demise was hardly noticed by the media. In an exclusive interview, her ardent disciple Paullomi Mukherjee Naik reveals her experience with her mentor and the persona of the grand old lady who always maintained a low profile as she felt that the art would speak for itself.

Paullomi Mukherjee Naik is an accomplished Kathak exponent and actress, who has established the Nritya Darpana Foundation to encourage young talent and work towards the propagation of classical arts. Paullomi says, "Rama didi was a treasure house of talent and knowledge. Over the years, many students came and disappeared too but I have consistently managed to be with her and am proud to be her only "gandaband shagird" (ardent disciple). In spite of being a great teacher, she was not involved in any politics and felt that the art has to speak for itself. If the artiste is truly devoted to her career and performance, she will definitely become successful; there is no need to pull strings or play any politics."

Pandita Ramadevi being felicitated by Paullomi

Paullomi Mukherjee Naik

Ramadevi was the disciple, widow and assistant of the late guru Lachchu Maharaj, the pioneering luminary of the Lucknow Gharana, who died in 1978 at the age of 77. Lachchu Maharaj was the second son of Kalka Prasad Maharaj and his brothers were Achchan and Shambu. Lachchu was quite reluctant to choreograph for movies, as he felt that the commercial aspect would dominate and the creative aspect would not be noticed properly. Nevertheless with the assistance of Ramadevi, he choreographed dance sequences for more than 100 films, noteworthy among them being Mughal-e-Azam, Mujhe Jeene Do, Teesri Kasam, Pakeezah, Ek Hi Raasta and Jeevan Mrityu.

The Maharaj brothers were pioneers in the field of Kathak and gave new life and colour to the substance and structure of Kathak. Ramadevi strictly followed the traditional norms and was a stickler for perfection and would not compromise on any ground.

On February 11, an exclusive dance program was organised in Mumbai as a mark of tribute by Paullomi. The chief guest for the program was accomplished Kathak exponent Dr. Raja Ketkar and other guests of honour included Dr. Shveni Pandya Dalal, Dr. Anand Patil and Shrikala Hattangadi. Nirtya Darpana Foundation functions more like an NGO as it caters to underprivileged and poor students who are willing to learn classical dance and do not have the means to do so.


God bless Didi's soul. I wish I could have enjoyed Didi's company for a longer time......
- Renuka (May 23, 2012)

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