Kathak expert Pandit Birju Maharaj passed away today (17th January) in Bombay. He was 83. Just a few days before the end came, Birju Maharaj had been diagnosed with a kidney ailment and had been put on dialysis.

Birju Maharaj had choreographed songs for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas and Bajirao Mastani. He was also a composer and singer. He had scored the music for two songs of Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari, besides lending his voice to them. Pandit Birju Maharaj had also choreographed a thump dance in Gadar – Ek Prem Katha.

Among the other films Birju Maharaj was associated with as choreographer are Dedh Ishqiya and Vishwaroopam (Tamil). He had taught dance moves to Madhuri Dixit for Dil Toh Pagal Hai, and to Alia Bhatt for Kalank.

Subhash Ghai fondly recalled that he had learnt about the Kathak dance form for the first time during his college youth festival when Birju Maharaj had presented a romantic conversation between Lord Krishna and Radha in dance form, with his two eyes talking to each other. “It is then that I realised that while dance meant the body, the eyes were the soul,” summarised Ghai, adding, “It’s little wonder that Birju Maharaj is known as the Jagat Guru of Kathak.”