Google today paid homage to legendary Kathak dancer Sitara Devi on her 97th birth anniversary with a special doodle. Born on November 8, 1920, Devi played the role of a pioneering force in bringing this classical dance genre to Bollywood. She was a vital force who stood for zest and vigour in Indian dance. While she took her last breath on November 25, 2014, her dance and grace is still remembered by the industry. One can say that Kathak was in her blood. She was born to a family of Brahmin ‘kathakar’ Sukhdev Maharaj and chose school and dance over an early wedding. According to reports, her father who was a Vaishnavite Brahmin scholar and Kathak exponent sent her to a local school where she impressed her teachers and the local media with her performance in a dance drama, “Savitri Satyavan”.
Sitara Devi was described as ‘Nritya Samragini’ which means the empress of dance by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore who was impressed by her after watching her three-hour solo recital. She was just 11 years old at the time when her family moved to Mumbai, where she impressed the Nobel laureate. Sitara was offered a shawl and Rs 50 by Tagore, which she refused and instead sought his blessings to become a great dancer. Even now three years after her death, Sitara Devi is described as the Kathak queen. Devi is known for her vibrant energy, effortless footwork, and unparalleled ability to bring a story to life. Her performances on and off the silver screen revived popular interest in the classical dance of Kathak. Showcases at international venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, London and Carnegie Hall, New York brought the dance form a global audience.
Her significant achievements over a career spanning six decades were recognized by several awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Padma Shree. Her legacy continues to inspire young talent in dance. It was during these six decades that she married director K Asif of Mughal-e-Azam fame and then Pratap Barot. Later in life, she was honoured with the Legends of India Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 for her contribution to the classical dance genre for over six decades.