A decade ago, the legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj performed at Taramati Baradari. As luck would have it, it poured cats and dogs amidst the performance. Hyderabadi connoisseurs were all set to be disappointed, but Maharaj enthralled the audience at a small room adjacent to the green room which was made available as a stop gap arrangement for the performance.
Hyderabad witnessed history again. Shinjini Kulkarni, granddaughter and disciple of Maharaj, was all set to do a solo Kathak recital that was halted midway due to heavy rain. Shinjini learnt Kathak from Maharaj at a very young age.
Hailing from a family of dancers, she was privy to various thought processes on dance. Maharaj has coached thousands of students but a mix of formal instruction of a guru coupled with informal anecdotes of a grandfather must have been interesting.
“My training was formal and strict along the likes of guru-shishya parampara. But as a grandfather, Nana shared so many anecdotes on his early days, experiences in Lucknow, which engaged me as a kid. For me, this was the best of both worlds,” says Shinjini.
Shinjini has also acted in films in three languages. “Once my college days were done and I was preparing for the Civil Services a few friends and family members approached me with a movie offer. So I ended up acting in some movies. However, I don’t want to let go of my passion for dance for anything.”
Civil Services seems an unlikely choice for a person from an art family, making us wonder how Shinjini got there. A graduate from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, Shinjini did very well in history and other subjects. “I was good at studies since my childhood. And in my college, Civil Services somehow seemed like the next step.
“I started preparing and then realised that studying for 18 hours and riyaz won’t go together. I loved dancing more than a nine-to-five job; so I had to let go of Civils.”
Shinjini’s parents started an academy of dance for underprivileged students. “Formal education doesn’t reach economically deprived kids. Dance can be vocational and enjoyable. Teaching such kids is very close to my heart,” she says. She says ruefully, “I put in a lot of effort for the solo show in Hyderabad, which is so close to Lucknowi tehzeeb and art appreciation that Nana talks of.
It’s unfortunate that the weather played spoilsport. A lot of people told me that they could not get enough. I want to come back soon and perform in Hyderabad again.”...