It was Google which brought Kathak exponent Sitara Devi’s 97th birth anniversary a widespread notice on Wednesday by marking it with a colorful doodle.
Sitara Devi Also known as the ‘Empress of Dance’ or ‘Nritya Samrajni’ after Rabindranath Tagore named her thus; Devi was one of the pioneers who brought the classical Indian dance into the context of Bollywood.
Absolute India has encountered few of the city Kathak performers remembering Sitara Devi on her d’day. Thinking about Sitara Devi, Kinnari a 27 years Kathak student at Ninad performing arts in Vile Parle said “I guess everyone knows about Sitara Devi, she is not a random name but a veteran in Kathak world, I was very young when I used to copy her dance making gestures which can’t look like hers even today”
On the other hand Vaishali a student at Ninad said “I have read about her life story and was furious to know that the dancers were treated like courtesans at that time and I am inspired by her that she has come across all the odds and made her way”.
Sitara Devi was passionately dedicated to Kathak and would devote hours to ‘riyaz’ of the art form. Somersault, swirl, wrestle and swing around a tall horizontal pole 100 times with agility are few of the steps which she carried on till she was 75.
Ishita Sharma the director of performing art group Amad is a Kathak dancer and choreographer has performed on various platforms. Her tribute to Michael Jackson in a fusion with Kathak is very much popular among the Kathak fraternity today.
“I am very young to say anything about Sitara Devi, she said touching her ear (a gesture of forgiveness to name the maestros) however, she has been an inspiration for almost every Kathak dancer”. “she defines Kathak, it is all in her body and gestures” said Ishita. When asked about Sitara Devi’s a-liner students like Madhubal, Rekha, Mala Sinha and Kajol she said “someone has to be a deserving candidate to become a student of such a maestro and these names certainly have the ability to be guided from someone like her”. She concluded.
“I have seen her attending many recitals even when she was on wheelchair, she used to make noises and clap enthusiastically on the performance, and she was full of life”.
Apoorva a Kathak student at Nupur Zankar in Kandivali said “honestly I got to know more about her after the doodle and gone through her entire biography, I am surprised to know that steps that we follow today in our performances are all performed by her in such amazing old films”. “I am highly impressed and proud that I am part of such a performing art that has celebrated stars like her”. She added.
Most of the dancers we spoke believe that apart from Sitara Devi’s contribution to Kathak dance and her being the maestro -long learning and success in life.
Sitara Devi was conferred with of the industry she is an example of how dedication, passion and practice come together to mark a life prestigious honors like Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969, Padma Shree in 1973, Kalidas Samman in 1995 and the India Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 for her imminent contribution ranging over six decades to classical dance.
Attended all the recitals and clap make noise, she was full of life and spirit.