Vijai Bhav, a tribute to Kathak Guru Pandit Vijai Shankar

 Vijai Bhav, a tribute to Kathak Guru Pandit Vijai Shankar

The relationship and the bond that a guru and shishya share is eternal. The teaching, the training and the words spoken by the guru leaves a lifelong impression on a shishya. It is said that ‘when one finds a true guru on can conquer the world’ same happened to Kathak exponent Asavari Pawar when she met her Guru late Pandit Vijai Shankar ji. Her world changed and under his proficient supervision she set out to surmount and triumph the world of Kathak.

Kathak exponent Asavari Pawar, Photo by Ashwani Chopra

Recently she organised a delightful festival ‘Vijai Bhav’ presenting beautiful bouquet of choreographies and paying honor to her Guru ji. The festival had all the elements needed to understand the heirloom that Late Pandit Vijai Shankar, who was one of the senior disciples of Kathak legend Pandit Birju Maharaj, had to offer. After the nostalgic show I spoke with the very emotional Asavari Pawar about her festival and her journey:

Tell me about your dance training and journey?
I started at a very young age under by father Padmashree guru Pratap Pawar MBE, then went on to learn under the expert guidance of Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee Pandit Vijai Shankar, I also learnt singing from Smt. Girija Devi and since then my life has been dance. I have been teaching in schools, colleges conducting workshops and at the same time performing in theatres and government schools also through IRCEN, trying my best to promote and popularize Kathak. I love teaching and training and I hope I can do it until the last breath I take. Teaching for so many years has taught me many a thing, most importantly what I have learnt from my students, colleagues, gurus and by observing from nature, friends and family is that, it is up to us how we extract the rasa from existence.

What made you bring out this festival Vijai Bhav?
All what I am today is because of the teaching of my guru Pandit Vijai Shankar ji. This festival Vijai Bhav is a shraddhanjali to him. His senior disciples and me have decided to keep his work and memories alive by presenting his work suffused with our visions for the classes and as well as for the masses. Though this festival we are trying our best to take his legacy forward and at the same time keep it alive too.

How did you put the show together?
The idea of having a festival Vijai Bhav as a tribute to guru ji was mine which I shared with my three guru sisters Shila Mehta, Nandini Sinha and Madhumita Roy and I was thrilled when they supported me for the same. I was further encouraged by my Kalaashish repertory dancers and musicians, guest tabla players, good wishes and moral support of many gurus, support from Kathak Kendra, The Ministry of Culture and also blessings from guruji’s sweet wife Smt. Poornima Shankar. Support from all these amazing people gave me the positivity and the strength to go ahead and put the festival together.

What were the difficulties did you face to put the festival together and who all helped you?
I wanted to plan this festival in 2020 but the most difficult part was the pandemic which delayed the festival for such a long time. But like it’s said when the heart is pure and clean God makes things come true, I used my own finances, my own salary from DPS R.K Puram, Kathak Kandra and a little bit of support from Ministry of Culture and few senior gurus and this show could get the spot light.
Artists like Chitra Sharma ji, Pandit Ram Mohan Maharaj, Pandit Charan Girdhar Chand, Smt. Ramni Kashyap and Padmashree Devayani ji also came forward and shared their vides bytes for us to hype the show and take it to more viewers.

What are you planning next?
I am planning a show presenting the four gharanas of kathak danced by my Kalaashish repertory and me also including two experts of at least two gharanas who will choreograph some part of the show and if possible, perform with us too. It will be a treat for sure for all Kathak lovers as they will get to see all four styles of Kathak on one stage.

Who do you admire the most in the world of dance and why?
I have always admired the work of Padmashree Shovana Narayan ji, her art is extraordinary, she is not only a true artist, a top achiever but at the same time she is a family woman, for me she is the epitome of a complete woman who is successful in all sphere of a women’s life, I have utmost respect and appreciation for her and I aspire to follow her footsteps.

Portraying the different bhavas, photo by Ashwani Chopra

With dance reality shows gaining so much popularity where does one see the future of Indian classical dance, specially Kathak?
Kathak is not just a dance, it is a tradition, it a culture, it has the roots of our nation embodied into it firmly. Kathak will keep permutating but will never die, it is too versatile and adapting as an art for any light force to crush it. Dance reality shows are good to create more awareness and exposure to the style, it is good that the channels are showcasing Kathak on the small screen it surely creates worldwide and nationwide popularity for the dance.

In films Kathak has been mostly used to show mujra, what is your take on the same?
I am grateful to the Twaifs for maintaining and preserving Kathak, they brought tremendous fame to the art of Kathak, they were the true Katha Kars (Story tellers) through Kathak. The mujras in films are usually very attractive, especially in films like Pakeezah and Umrao Jaan. I have performed Mujra myself while legendary Asha Bhosle ji sang and otherwise also in prestigious auditoriums on demand by the audience.

Your show was witnessed by many, what as per you was the highlight of the Vijai Bhav show and why?
The highlight and the hero surely was Guruji Pandit Vijai Shankar ji. So many renowned gurus spoke about him for me on social media. Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj, Vidushi Saswati Sen, Vidushi Nalini and Kamalini ji, Smt. Manjri Sinha ji, Pandit Shyamal Maharaj, Shri Jayant Kastuar and Guru Subhash Chandra. Smt. Poornima Shankar sent a very special note and Mannjari ji an audio note as well and so many others sent their good wishes. I believe that it is extremely important to highlight the light that did guide you when you were not able to carve or see the correct path. All I can ever say is ‘Jai Guru Dev.’

Tell me more about the dancer who were a part of the festival?
Apart from my three guru behens, I have a whole lot of people to thank, my team of Kalaashish dancers – Shruti Kotnala, Brijesh Kumari, Parull Ssharma, Karan Bhaskar, Chanchal Prasad and Manish Gangani. show anchor Nayanika Ghosh Chowdhury, playing tabla were Mohit Raj, Utpal Ghoshal, Ishan Paranjpe, vocal and harmonium were by Anshu Kumar, Sitar by Sandeep Goswami, Pakhawaj was Ashish Gangani and Sarangi by Ghanshyam Sisodia. These are the people who made the show grand and worthwhile.



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