Renowned Kathak exponent and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Pandit Rajendra Gangani is in Hyderabad as part of Prayaas — A Kathak Evening, which is being organised by Nritya Kunj Academy of Kathak Dance.
Born to Pandit Kundanlal Gangani, the torchbearer of the famous Jaipur Gharana of Kathak dance, is New Delhi-based Kathak dancer had started training in the dance form when he was only four years old. A graduate from Kathak Kendra, Delhi in 1983-84, Rajendra, who is also an accomplished musician who can play the tabla, harmonium and pakhawaj — is known for absorbing the most complicated bols of Kathak, incorporating into the traditional aspect in the art and creativity of contemporary approach.
But his peers regard him very highly not only for his art but also for persevering in the face of grave odds.
A cruel twist of fate
Towards the end of 2004, while driving with accompanying artists from Jaipur to Udaipur for a programme, his car hit head-on with a speeding truck. The collision smashed the car completely, and while all the accompanying artists miraculously escaped with a few scratches, Rajendra lost the movement in his right hand and leg. Soon after the accident, Rajendra was hospitalised in Delhi, and had to move about on a wheel chair for many months. He had a steel rod inserted in his right hand and leg.
Despite the rods, Rajendra’s performance would leave no one any wiser about it. “I had to undergo a series of operations and medical treatment. My life began looking like that of a vegetable, with no movement especially in the right side of my body,” recalls Rajendra. But his doctors then advised him to start visiting Kathak Kendra on a wheel chair to ensure that he dosen’t into depression and continue his practise.
Talking about those days Rajendra still gets emotional, and tears roll down his cheeks even as his voice cracks. “One day, my doctor gave me a stick in my left hand and asked me to try walking. I could not move an inch. I was totally shattered. I knew that there were many people who wondered if I would be able to come back on stage and had nearly written me off,” he recounts.
But Rajendra had his set of well-wishers too. His mother Kamala Devi would always urge him to walk and try to dance. Additionally, the legendary Kathak dancer Sitara Devi would call from Mumbai, asking when he would start dancing. “There were many more well-wishers, including tabla exponent Pandit Kishan Maharaj, who were deeply concerned about my health. After about a year, I finally mustered enough courage and overcame the pain. For the first time since the accident, I gave a programme of five-minute duration at Srinathji Temple in Nathwada, Rajasthan,” adds Rajendra, who is convinced that strong belief in oneself and blessings of one’s elders can do wonders.
He is expected to perform at Shilparamam on August 12....