Dance is a way to express instead of impress. For some, it is the hidden language of their soul. One of the dance classes in my city had a banner outside: “Dancers are the athletes of God”. Beautiful thought, isn’t it? That line itself made me feel “I wish I could dance”.
Our country offers so many lovely divine dance forms. Telling stories, narrating tales, epics. Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam! Out of these Kathak is evolved from storytelling. ‘Katha kahe so kathak’. Kathak with all its gharanas–Jaipur, Lucknow and Banaras–stands tall when it comes to elegance and oneness with nature. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was one of the most famous patrons of this art form. His ‘Parikhana’ in Qaiserbagh was the reflection of his love for art, music and dance. He himself was a disciple of Pandit Durga Prasad of Lucknow gharana.
Shatranj Ke Khiladi, a splendid tale of 2 aristocrats, Mirza Sajid Ali (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mir Roshan Ali (Saeed Jaffrey), from the era of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (Amjad Khan), who are obsessed with playing chess. Based on the story by Munshi Premchand by the same name, narrated by Amitabh Bachchan and directed by Satyajit Ray, the story is a sad take on how the rulers neglected their duty towards the motherland because of their obsession. The Nawab is unaware and least bothered when the British troops enter Lucknow. According to the new treaty he has to abdicate the throne. But he is seen deeply immersed in the dance being performed by one of the court dancers.
Kanha main tose haari
Nahin main doongi tohe gaari
Kanha main tose haari…..
A thumri rendered by none other than Pandit Birju Maharaj and composed by Satyajit Ray. The richness of this thumri doesn’t stop here. The onscreen performer is Saswati Sen, the well-known disciple of Birju Maharaj, and lyrics have been written by Bindadin Maharaj who belonged to the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and also happens to be the grandfather of Pandit Birju Maharaj. Phew!!
The song with all its richness not only paints a picture of power and grace but also gives a hint of mysticism and spiritualism. A grandeur which communicates beyond words.
Originally written for an online music group on 2 January 2019
Deepa Buty lives in Nagpur, and writes beautifully. This is what her Facebook page says about her: “(She) Loves Dev Anand and music. Not sure in which order!” She is also a founder and admin of the music site SongPedia.