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Birju Maharaj

th (6)Pandit Birju Maharaj, the leading exemplar of the Lucknow Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Kathak dance in India has been trainingDeepika Padukone as she essays the role of Mastani in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Bajirao Mastani. Birju Maharaj has earlier worked on another Bhansali film – the National award winning, Devdas where he trained Madhuri Dixit . This time around, the legend will be mentoring Deepika , who is a trained Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancer. However,this will be the first time Deepika is training with the dance maestro and has been attending extensive workshops with him , to gauge the finer nuances of classical dance.

But in an interview to Mumbai Mirror, Pandit Birju Maharaj revealed, “Sanjay was having second thoughts about this jugalbandi and I will choreograph Deepika in a solo act which is a more contemporary adaptation of one of my own performances set on an Avadhi-Brijwasi thumri, Balma re chunaria maiko lal.”“There’s a lot of lal rang in the song with Deepika dressed in fiery red, her head demurely covered by a ghoonghat but her eyes flashing fire,” he added.Pandit Birju Maharaj is a perfectionist and admits that he’s wary of working with untrained dancers but Bhansali made him watch Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Happy New Year’ which had Deepika performing a Kathak sequence.

“I figured she would be able to dance gracefully to the thumri Sanjay had picked out. And I was right. Deepika, who has received formal training in Bharatnatyam, quickly mastered the footwork when she came for riyaaz to Delhi,” said Panditji.Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali who shares a warm equation with Pandit Birju Maharaj, has personally been attending the rehearsals to check on Deepika’s progress.

Adds Birju Maharaj, “We’ll be shooting for 12 nights at a stretch. And till then I’ve given Deepika lots of homework that’ll keep her busy.””She’s not afraid of last-minute changes and is in no hurry. We shoot at our own sweet pace,” he smiles, adding that Bhansali will be filming the song at the end of the month in April in a studio. “We’ll be shooting for 12 nights at a stretch. And till then I’ve given Deepika lots of homework that’ll keep her busy,” he chortles.