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Birju Maharaj
Pandit Birju Maharaj.jpg
Background information
Born 4 February 1938 (1938-02-04) (age 83)
Handia, United Provinces, British India
Genres Indian classical
Occupation(s) Dancer, composer, singer
Years active 1951–present

Brijmohan Mishra, (born 4 February 1938) popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj, is an exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India. He is a descendant of the Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, which includes his two uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj. Even though dancing is his first love, he practices Hindustani classical music and is a vocalist.

After working along with his uncle, Shambhu Maharaj at Bhartiya Kala Kendra, later the Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, he remained head of the latter, for several years, till his retirement in 1998 when he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi.

Early life and background

Birju Maharaj was born in the house of Kathak exponent, Jagannath Maharaj, popularly known as Acchan Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana, who served as court dancer in Raigarh princely state. Birju was trained by his uncles, Lachhu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj and his father, and he gave his first recital at the age of seven. On 20 May 1947, his father died when he was nine.

Career

Maharaj started teaching the dance form at the age of thirteen, at the Sangeet Bharti in New Delhi. He then taught at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, and at the Kathak Kendra (a unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi) where he was Head of Faculty, and director, retiring in 1998 after which he opened his own dance school, Kalashram, also in Delhi. He composed the music, and sang, for two dance sequences in the Satyajit Ray's Shatranj ke Khilari, and choreographed the song Kaahe Chhed Mohe from the 2002 film version of novella Devdas.

Awards and honours

  • 1964 - Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
  • 1986 - Padma Vibhushan
  • 1986 - Nritya Choodamani Award by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha
  • 1987 - Kalidas Samman
  • 2002 - Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar
  • Honorary doctorate from Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya
  • Honorary doctorate from Banaras Hindu University
  • Sangam Kala Award
  • Bharat Muni Sammaan
  • Andhra Ratna
  • Nritya Vilas Award
  • Adharshila Shikhar Samman
  • Soviet Land Nehru Award
  • National Nritya Shiromani Award
  • Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award

Film Awards

  • 2012 - National Film Award for Best Choreography for Unnai Kaanaathu (Vishwaroopam)
  • 2016 - Filmfare Award for Best Choreography for Mohe Rang Do Laal (Bajirao Mastani)
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