Per­sis­tence paid off, and how, for Birju Ma­haraj’s daugh­ter, Mamta Ma­haraj

HT City - - MY CITY -

The women in the fam­ily of Kathak leg­end Birju Ma­haraj learnt the dance form and per­formed within the house­hold, but never took it up pro­fes­sion­ally. But the per­sis­tence of his third daugh­ter, Mamta, saw the guru re­lent­ing and the un­said fam­ily norm be­ing up­ended.

Mamta is among the first fe­males from the Luc­know gha­rana to adopt the dance form as a pro­fes­sion. From when she was just five, she watched per­for­mances on the sly and was ex­posed to many dance forms. Trained by her fa­ther, the danseuse said her child­hood at Delhi’s Bharatiya Kala Ken­dra — where her fa­ther used to teach — was in­stru­men­tal in devel­op­ing her love for the form. And, what be­gan as a fun ac­tiv­ity for Mamta, soon turned into some­thing she couldn’t sep­a­rate her­self from.

How­ever, the go­ing wasn’t easy be­cause women in Birju Ma­haraj’s fam­ily could not take up Kathak pro­fes­sion­ally. “As chil­dren, my fa­ther al­lowed us to per­form in Kathak recitals or bal­let per­for­mances, but not once we grew up,” Mamta shared.

“My sis­ters ac­cepted the norm, but I couldn’t sep­a­rate my­self from this new pas­sion that grew in­side me,” she ex­plained and added, “I de­cided that there is only go­ing to be dance in my life; ei­ther that or the Army.” She re­vealed that af­ter much con­vinc­ing, the Kathak doyen fi­nally gave in, paving the way for his daugh­ter to be­come one of the fe­male pi­o­neers of the Luc­know gha­rana.

Does she see her fa­ther only as a guru? “I have al­ways seen him more as a guru than as a fa­ther,” she said, adding that she al­ways faced the pres­sure of a bad per­for­mance dent­ing her fa­ther’s painstak­ingly built rep­u­ta­tion.

Mamta Ma­haraj is among the first women from the Luc­know gha­rana to adopt Kathak as a pro­fes­sion

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