Lt. Pandit Birju Maharaj
Padma Vibhushan Brijmohan Mishra popularly known as Pandit Birju Maharaj is the leading exponent of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India and an accomplished Hindustani classical vocalist. He is a descendant of the legendary Maharaj family of Kathak dancers, which includeshis two uncles, Shambhu, Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj, and his father and guru, Acchan Maharaj. The living legend was Head of Faculty, and director at Sangeet Natak Academy, retiring in 1998, thereafter having founded his dance school kalasharam in the same year. He composed the music and sang for two dance sequences in Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi, and choreographed the song “Kaahe Chhed Mohe” from the 2002 film version of novella Devdas. In addition, he has also choreographed Kathak dance sequences in Dedh Ishqiya as well as Umrao Jaan, and now more recently Bajirao Mastani directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, for which he has been awarded the Filmfare Award in 2016. Besides the Padma Vibhushan in 1986, he has also received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Kalidas Samman and honorary Doctorate degrees from Banaras Hindu University (Varanasi) and Khairagarh University.