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“He was truly the prince of Kathak," says Mumbai-based Kathak danseuse Pandita Uma Dogra, 57, of her late guru Pandit Durga Lal, in whose memory she has been organizing the Pt Durgalal Festival for over two decades.

In its 24th edition, the festival, presented annually by Dogra’s Mumbai-based Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts, will feature solo acts by Madhavi Mudgal (Odissi) and Rajendra Gangani (Kathak), in a 3-hour show on 7 February in Mumbai, and Dogra and her group in a 2-hour performance on 9 February in Thane.

Uma Dogra
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Uma Dogra

She credits her late guru with having breathed life into Jaipur gharana. “There was a time in the 1950s-60s when only the Lucknow gharana was on a big high, baki koi gharana nahin thha in the public space. There were only gurus, not performers. Durgalalji ne kabr se nikala, zinda kiya Jaipur gharane ko," says the seniormost ganda-bandh shagird, the disciple who is picked to pass on the legacy.

Durga Lal, who was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar in 1984, died in 1990 after a scintillating performance in Lucknow at the peak of his career, he was just 42. He had taught at cultural institutions in the Capital like the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Kathak Kendra and Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

Mudgal, initially learnt Kathak from Durga Lal at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya which was started by her father the late Hindustani vocalist Pandit Vinaychandra Maudgalya, but later took to Odissi. One of the seniormost performing disciples of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, she will be presenting the traditional Odissi repertoire, perhaps an abhinaya in a composition in Braj bhasa. “It’s a great way to remember the genuine artiste, who at 42 was a star, known and loved by all," says Mudgal.

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Rajendra Gangani
Madhavi Mudgal. Photo: Ajay Lal
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Madhavi Mudgal. Photo: Ajay Lal

Shouldn’t a festival for a Kathak legend only feature Kathak? “Not necessarily," says Dogra, “For instance, last year’s festival featured Bharatanatyam (by Rama Vaidyanathan) and Odissi (by Sujata Mohapatra)."

Dogra adds: “I don’t want to restrict the scope of this festival, the aim of which is to recognize and respect all forms of Indian classical dance."

Pt Durgalal Festival will be held at 6.45pm on 7 February, at the Nehru Centre, Worli, Mumbai. Tickets, 100, 200, 300 and 500, available at the venue and at Rhythm House. It will be held at 4pm on 9 February at the Kashinath Ghanekar Hall, Thane (West). Tickets, 150, available at the venue.

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