Diamond of Kathak- Damyanti Joshi ji

Diamond of Kathak
Damyanti Joshi ji
When I met “Diamond” of Kathak, Smt Damyanti Joshi ji
It was a fine evening at the hall L7in IIT Kanpur. It is a lecture hall but doubled as the best auditorium for all kinds of activities. The L7 was unique, everyone in the IITK Campus knew the destination. Be a film show, natak, a debate, or Lec-Dem of SPICMACAY or dance performance of Swapna Sundari ji, or Music or vocal rendition by Smt GanguBai Hangal. All were held in this L7.
There was a show by the Lucknow Kathak Kendra. A team from kendra came to perform. I could not believe my eyes when I saw Smt Damyanti Joshi ji. It was just like a dream. Since at L7, I could easily sneak-in all such programs. I immediately touched her feet to seek her blessings. Long ago I had seen her on Doordarshan. Thus one can imagine what happens to a child when he sees a star which he had seen on TV. I was out of this world. Later when she came to know that I am a keen student of Kathak, She immediately turned towards a Man. She said see it is good that he is willing to join us at Lucknow, we have shortage of boys in Kathak at Lucknow.
Later she asked me to come to Lucknow Kathak Kendra anytime. Without any hesitation you come to me- she had told me. No other person had said such words to me before, apart from one person. That another person was wife of our president R Venkentaraman. Once she came to IIT Kanpur campus to visit her daughter, whom I knew as Vijaya Aunty, I went to aunty’s house for some work. There I met her mother. That time R Venkataraman was Vice president. She told that you come to Delhi and inform at gate- so and so has come from IIT Kanpur. I really missed the opportunity to visit the Up-Rasthrapati’s house in New Delhi.  Similarly when most respected Damyanti ji said those kind words I was filled with lots of emotions, imaginations etc. But What I could have done at that time. In both instances I was a “nobody”, how could I go to their places.
Later after some time I heard that due to some reasons Damyanti ji did not continue as the director, Kathak Kendra, Lucknow. It was not her loss. It was loss of Lucknow. It was a great loss for me personally. She was the true example of Kathak. Since she had learnt from guru of Jaipur Gharana and also from All the three gurus of Lucknow, Achchan Maharaj, Lachu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj. Thus She was a GEM- a Diamond of Kathak. Whose glitter never fades. That is the only quality by which a diamond is recognized.
As a four year old child she used to play in the courtyard of a house belonging to the Shokhey’s household. The lady of the house madam shokey was none other but known as Madame Menaka. She was also a great performer, a gifted one. She adopted this child, the daughter of Smt Vatsala. Who was working in this household. Thus began the association of two stars. Under the guidance of Madam Menaka the career of Damyanti ji started charting a path, which always strode upwards. Till Damyanti ji became a glittering star herself. Madam Menaka selected teachers for her daughter-Damyanti ji.

Legend has it that when the Guru Mahalingam Pillai the great Nattuvanar started school in Bombay to teach BharatNatyam, Smt Damyanti Joshi was the first student the moment the school started. That tells the alertness both Damyanti ji and Madam Menaka had and behind all, the approval of her mother might have been a great strength.

She started wearing Saree while dancing

As the training continued under tutelage of various great masters, Damyanti ji with her determination and will power emerged as a true artist. She learnt the intricacies of art-Kathak. She did not follow the art for the sake of fame. She was a true artists at core. Her renditions were pure art. She mastered over the Abhinaya and the “dheer” emotion of taal. As we know Kathak has been used as a chamatkari nritya- that means the dance specially the gunghrus were used to have some surprising effect on the audience, using the high speed laya and taal (beats). So as to mesmerize everybody. But, She chose Vilambit laya, the lowest speed while dancing. Through the slow beat the focus remains on the abhinaya, or so to say, if someone has truly mastered an art, it can be judged only through the vilambit laya-the Slow pace.
In another article I read that she did not like the introduction /announcement before any item. As she felt that dance itself should be able to communicate with the Audience. What is the need to inform the audience before-hand. If a dancer tells to audience before dance That means artist has failed in its objective. Kathak means the story telling. If we are not able to convey the story though our gestures then we fail ourselves.
She was also master in the Nayika Bhed, or the Astha Nayikas. The eight types of mood or heroines. As earlier I had written about Natraj Gopi Krishna, he was a true natraj and he demonstrated the nayika bhed with added masala. Small little things like pulling the hair pin with teeth and then putting on plait. But Damyanti ji demonstrated within the boundaries as defined in the shastras. She has been credited to introduce the practice of wearing Saree while dancing.
I attended several Lec Dem and seminars etc. In one utsav of Kathak at Delhi  in evening there was program of Smt Damyanti Joshi ji in the FICCI auditorium. The year is not important. It was I think 1994/95?? It was quite late in night. I was strong lover of dance. I reached the FICCI, but when I entered the auditorium I felt ashamed. Felt very sad. At least when such a star artist and that too a senior artist of her status has come down to Delhi and more over she has the determination to perform herself on stage at that advanced AGE, all the dance fraternity must be present there. But I felt sad that only few days back there was a programme by Smt Uma Sharma ji for Spastic society of India. The FICCI auditorium was full. But when Damyanti Joshi danced in same auditorium not much seats were filled. Only a quarter of hall was with human heads. That day inside me I wept somewhere. But as I am a nobody, whom I could complain.
But kudos to that spirit, Damyanti Ji came on stage and danced with gunghroos on her feet. She danced few Tihais and chakardars also. Sometimes it seemed she will fell down. But She composed herself and completed dance. I salute her spirit. I saw her dancing at that advanced age is no sort of miracle for me (as a student of art). Not many from Kathak Kendra were there. However few from organizers and prachin kala Kendra were there too.
Photos I have taken from internet. Nowdays anyone can google pictures. But for us the students of arts this medium is very beneficial as we can atleast see many works of arts.
Thanx to the Google, The internet which has become a world wide web…..no one can come out of it!!! Google from a noun has become a verb!!!
Below is a Newspaper cutting , i have forgot the name, written by Ashish Khokar. It is in my collection of all such odd things that i used to collect during my schooldays. And it was a big problem for my family.