Sitara Devi (Kathak Exponent) Hailing from Varanasi, the holy city located on the sacred river Ganga, Sitara Devi is the second generation of Kathak artists of Benaras Gharana, having been taught and imparted vidya-knowledge-by her father Sukhdev Maharaja. In a conversation with Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, she says that it was unusual for a girl to be a Kathak dancer, because those times were different and there were only boys, who performed, even the female role in Ramlila. At the age of 13, she moved to Mumbai, where, of course, it was a different atmosphere. She received her talim-teaching-and initiation there. She got some roles in films and at the age 14 or 15, she had become a heroine. She performed in various Pauranic stories, which were depicted through Kathak. She had lessons from Shambhu Maharaj in dancing.
Sitara Devi feels that today ballets have a lot of freedom in style and that ‘vidya’-knowledge is gone. Talim needs an urge to learn. But, today the question is – will this tradition of Gharanas go on? She says it is a vast sea, where the shore is not visible. One is engulfed within the ocean. It is like Shiv Tandava or Shiva’s cosmic dance that seems to be unending. She is writing a book on her father. He had composed music-cum-dance in words-which she calls Kavita; it will be a part of the book. The practice part will also be there. She says that her father was a great master in conveying the different expressions though the eyes, and how all parts of the body could be used for conveying something.
Damyanti Joshi Dr. Kapila Vatsyan, the indologist and art critic engages Damyanti Joshi, great Kathak exponent, in a lively conversation, bringing out her best experiences and the different turns in her journey of art. Damyanti Joshi spent her childhood in devotion to Kathak, being brought up by her mother, because of her father’s early death. When she was sent to Guru or the reverenced teacher to teach her dance, he remarked that she had enough talent for becoming a great Kathak dance. Her mother wanted Damyanti to receive ‘Talim’ – theoretical knowledge – of the art of dancing from the masters. She did attend these sessions and had to do practice or ‘riyaz’ herself. She says that different gharanas – schools or sects of musicals, who have their own style-do not pass on the secret of riyaz to those outside the gharana. She says she learnt it from outside.
Damyanti says Kathak does not need any explanation, because it is easy to understand.