shot-button
Subscription Subscription
Home > Entertainment News > Bollywood News > Article > Neelima Azeem Dancing was a form of healing for Maharajji

Neelima Azeem: Dancing was a form of healing for Maharajji

Updated on: 18 January,2022 08:18 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Upala KBR |

Actor-dancer Neelima Azeem, who trained under Kathak doyen Pandit Birju Maharaj since she was 10, recounts her 52-year association with her guru

Neelima Azeem: Dancing was a form of healing for Maharajji

Neelima Azeem with Pandit Birju Maharaj

“I cannot imagine a world without Guru Maharajji,” begins actor and Kathak exponent Neelima Azeem, echoing the sentiments of many who had bloomed under the tutelage of Pandit Birju Maharaj. The actor, who learnt the dance form from the doyen and Munna Shukla, performed her last show with Maharaj in Delhi in 2019. “Maharajji had changed the roop of Kathak with his detailing of movement. We would often go to meet him in Delhi. Sometimes, we would have dance workshops in Mumbai [when he would fly down]. We couldn’t meet in the last two years because of the pandemic, but we kept in touch through video conferencing. We [a group of his senior students] were planning to meet him on his birthday next month [February 4],” she says.
 
Azeem was only 10 years old when she was introduced to the world of Kathak by the legend. “It has been an association of over 52 years. I have been fortunate to be under his guidance, learning his life’s philosophy, and [following his] rigorous training of dance and music. He was a central figure in my life. The magical thing about Maharajji was that when he was on stage, he was like a dream. Personally, he was warm, childlike, and jovial. He taught us with love. Maharajji was not an intimidating teacher, nor did he get angry. If he felt his students were negligent towards their riyaaz, he would simply ignore them during the classes. His silence indicated that he was upset.”
 
It was when Azeem, then only 10, saw one of Maharaj’s performances that she was “transformed” and realized that she wanted to pursue the art form. “My father told me that it would be tough to get into the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, where Maharajji taught Kathak. When he took my exam [for the admission], I couldn’t recognise him – on stage, he seemed ethereal whereas in real life, he was simple and modest. He liked my dancing, would come to my classes, and offered to give me rabri and jalebi if I rehearsed more. He was not only a great dancer and musician, but also an instrumentalist, painter, sculptor, writer and poet. Maharajji was the complete artist. He was influenced by nature. He would tell us nothing in this world is without rhythm, be it your heartbeat or pulse. To Maharajji, Kathak was not just a dance form – dancing was a form of healing for him. He told us that if we practiced for just 10 minutes, it would give us tremendous strength and courage during our troubled times.”  




"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK