New Delhi, September 27
Birju Maharaj, an iconic figure in the world of kathak, would quietly and rather privately explore another side of his artistic expression by painting about themes of bhakti, festivity, nature and dance.
A new exhibition here features Birju Maharaj’s works on canvas showcasing his hidden talents as a painter and poet.
Organised by his dance school Kalashram and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), “Kalaakriti” is the first-ever exhibition of artworks by Birju Maharaj to commemorate his artistic legacy.
The exhibition features paintings from the 1990s, when Birju Maharaj started experimenting with the paintbrush, till 2022. Birju Maharaj passed away in January 2022 at the age of 83.
Talking about his hobby of painting, granddaughter and dancer Shinjini Kulkarni said that he would paint as a way to pass time.
“Especially during the lockdown years, he created numerous paintings and it was one of his ways to pass time as concerts were not happening, classes could happen very little. So you see a very stark difference from when he started painting to the time where his works really matured in terms of themes, colour application or even for that matter subject selection,” Kulkarni told PTI.
A large collection of Birju Maharaj’s paintings at the exhibition explore his love for Lord Krishna. Different episodes involving Lord Krishna can be seen in his paintings, including ‘Kaliya Daman’, Krishna lifting the Govardhan hill, and Krishna delivering the Bhagavad Gita to Arjun. He has also painted Buddha, Kathak postures, works on India’s struggle for freedom, kite flying, nature in different forms, festivals such as Holi, and portraits of Rabindranath Tagore and Sathya Sai Baba.
“In this exhibition, they have carefully selected his early paintings, his development over the years, themes on Bhakti, nature, dance, portraits and also whimsical sense of humour. Beautiful play of colours and light and you just feel his personality. You feel that he is speaking to you through the paintings, just the way he spoke through his dance, through his singing, and through his wonderful stories,” Sharon Lowen, Odissi dancer and a close friend of Birju Maharaj, said.
The exhibition will remain open till October 8.
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