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Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kathak legend passed away

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            Birju Maharaj, considered a Kathak great, died late Sunday at his home after being diagnosed with renal failure and placed on dialysis just a few days before. He was 83 years old.

Maharaj ji, as he was affectionately known, was believed to be playing with his grandkids when his health abruptly deteriorated, necessitating his admission to the hospital, where he died of a heart attack.

Maharaj ji, who received the country’s second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, was also a lifetime Kathak master as well as a gifted Hindustani classical vocalist and drummer.

His two period dance routines in Satyajit Ray’s historical drama ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ (for which he also sang) and the ‘Kaahe Chhed Mohe’ track picturized on Madhuri Dixit in the 2002 rendition of ‘Devdas’ will be remembered by film aficionados.

The National Award went to Maharaj ji for choreographing ‘Unnai Kaanadhu Naan’ in Kamal Haasan’s multi-lingual megahit ‘Vishwaroopam’, and the Filmfare Awards went to Bajirao Mastani for ‘Mohe Rang Do Laal’.

“Extremely grieved by the news about the passing away of Legendary Kathak Dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj ji”, Adnan Sami, one of the first artists to pay tribute to the doyen of Kathak, stated in a tweet. We have lost a unique institution in the world of performing arts.

His brilliance has affected countless generations. “May he rest in peace”.

Union Defense Minister Rajnath Singh also paid respect, tweeting, “Pandit Birju ji Maharaj was a doyen of India’s art and culture”. He spread the Lucknow gharana of Kathak dance all over the world. His death is a tremendous loss to the world of performing arts.

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