Deepak and Ragini Maharaj, son and granddaughter of the Late Birju Maharaj made their debut at the Saptak Music Festival on Monday, with a lively, interactive Kathak performance. Pandit Birju Maharaj, who passed away in January 2022, was scheduled to perform at last year’s Saptak, but alas, the festival was cut short by a resurgence of the Covid pandemic a day before he was to perform.
Deepak Maharaj was new to the Ahmedbadi mehfil but he quickly established a rapport with the audience, reciting the occasional shayri and keeping up a jovial banter. “My father has not passed away. He is here. I see him in every one of you,” he said.
This was the first dance performance in this year’s festival and the father-daughter duo took the audience through all the paces in the course of their performance, starting with an Upaj and moving on to a Thaat and ending with series of Thumri Bhav, where they enacted poetry based on episodes from the life of Krishna. The dancers were accompanied by Jaywardhan Dadich on the harmonium, Pranshu Chatural on the tabla, Mehmood Khan on the sitar and Janab Waris Khan on the Sarangi, all of them Delhi-based artists who had flown into Ahmedabad for Saptak.
There are over 140 artists performing at Saptak this year and 25 of them are newcomers to the festival. Besides Deepak and Ragini Maharaj, there is also a Bharatnayam performance by newcomer Rukmini Vijayhumar tomorrow, 11 January.
The second performance of the evening was by Kalapini Komkali, daughter and student of Pandit Kumar Gandharva, accompanied by Ramendra Solanki on the tabla and Milind Kulkarni on the harmonium. The vocalist sang Raag Chandra Nandan, dedicating it to Saptak founder Pandit Nandan Mehta.
“I remember first coming to Saptak 17 years ago. Pandit Nandan Mehta was there at my performance, though he was keeping unwell those days. Pandit Krishan Maharaj and Rajan-Sanjan Mishra were also there in the audience and it was such an honour,” she said. After the main Raag, Sushri Kalapini sang a Bandish based on Raag Sohini Bhatiyar, followed by a Bhajan.
The last performance of the evening, reserved for the doyens of Hindustani classical music, was by sitarist Pandit Kushal Das, accompanied by Sandip Ghosh on the tabla. Clad in a black kurta with a gold silk jacket, the veteran sitarist Das played Raag Jogkauns.