Padma Vibhushan awardee and legendary Kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj died at his home on Monday early morning. The artiste was playing antakshari with his family and friends after dinner when he fell sick.
The Kathak legend would have been 84 by the next month. The exponent had been suffering from a kidney ailment and was under dialysis treatment. He probably died of a cardiac arrest.
Soon after Pandit Birju Maharaj’s demise became viral, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying tributes to the Kathak exponent. The Prime Minister tweeted, “Deeply saddened by the demise of Pandit Birju Maharaj ji, who gave Indian dance art a special recognition across the world. His passing is an irreparable loss to the world. My condolences to his family and fans in this hour of grief. Om Shanti!”
Bollywood actor Madhuri Dixit Nene, known for her role as Chandramukhi in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's opulent Devdas, also took to Twitter to pay her tributes to her guru and friend.
“He was a legend but had a childlike innocence. He was my guru but also my friend. He taught me the intricacies of dance and Abhinay but never failed to make me laugh at his funny anecdotes,” she tweeted.
“He has left behind grieving fans and students but also left a legacy we will all carry forward. Thank you Maharajji for everything you taught me in dance along with humility, elegance and grace. Koti koti pranam,” she further tweeted.
“We’ve lost a peerless dancer like Pandit Birju Maharaj. For several years, I learned from him, from a distance as Eklavya did.. then I got to learn from him in person for the film Vishwaroopam. ‘Without you in sight, I’m not who I am’,” Kamal Haasan tweeted.
The dancer’s journey in the Hindi film industry began with Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khiladi, which starred doyens like Sanjeev Kumar, Amjad Ali Khan and Saeed Jaffrey in lead roles. He also went onto choreograph Madhuri Dixit in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2002 film Devdas for the song Kahe Chhed Chhed Mohe.
He also choreographed Deepika Padukone for the 2015 film Bajirao Mastani’s song Mohe Rang Do Laal. The Kathak exponent also choreographed Kamal Haasan, also known as Ulaga Nayagan, for the track Unnai Kaanadhu Naan in the National Award-winning film Vishwaroopam. He also received India’s second highest civilian award – Padma Vibhushan in 1986.
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