Google doodle always manages to bring out the lesser known or forgotten names from our knowledge directory. Today too they did the same by paying tribute to revered Kathak dancer, Sitara Devi. A cartoon wearing red with sitar and tabla in the background made up the doodle of the day. Sitara Devi regarded as the ‘Empress of dance’ by nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore himself, is the lesser known name which helped introduce dancing to Bollywood.
Born as Dhannolakshmi on November 8, 1920, to Kathak dancer and Sanskrit scholar Sukhdev Maharaj and his wife Matsya Kumar in Kolkata, she was the fire band that took Kathak as an Indian art form to the international audience with performances in Royal Albert Hall, London and Carnegie Hall, New York.
At a time when Kathak was stigmatized as a dance form being practiced in mujras by prostitutes, Sitara Devi broke the ice by showing it as a respectable dance form. She performed in Aurat Ka Dil as a child actor followed by Phool by Mughal-e-Azam famed director K. Asif, whom she later went on to marry.
“People were horrified hearing ghungroo sounds from our house, because only tawaifs wore ghunguroos. But my father declared his daughters would not be confined to a life of dishwashing and housework. People retorted, will they dance in mujras? If I am no more, and if tomorrow, God forbid, Birju Maharaj is no more, it will be the end of Kathak. The End — like they say in the films,” she told The Hindu in an interview in 2009.
For the India Lifetime Achievement Award winner of 2011 who breathed her last in November, 2014, life was a series of todas and parans.