Pandit Hazarilal was a renowned exponent and Guru of the Jankiprasad Kathak Gharana of Banaras. He was adopted at a young age by Nritya Samrat Ashiq Hussain – a magnetic film star and exponent of the Jankiprasad style. When Ashiq Hussain migrated to Pakistan during Partition, he left Pt. Hazarilal as the torchbearer of the Gharana.
In newly independent India, Guruji struggled with adversity, injury and lack of patronage as he worked to bring this rare style back on stage. After some years as a choreographer in the Pune film industry, Guruji returned to Mumbai and began teaching at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chowpatty and a few other schools.
Guruji was an artist par excellence and a warm, extremely popular and respected teacher. He made difficult compositions seem like child’s play, and kept his students motivated with his famous words ‘bahut achche’ and ‘ban ke nacho.’ He trained many exponents like Smt Sunayana Hazarilal, Sudarshan Dheer, Siddhi Jhaveri, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Jayashri Sanghi, Neesha Jhaveri and film stars Usha Kiran, Nigar Sultana and Gita Bali.
Pt. Hanumanprasad (1872 - 1952) was a court dancer of Maharaja Pratapsingh of Kashmir. Later he was also employed by Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala, and Maharaja Ganga Singhji of Bikaner. He was also in the court of the King of Nepal for some time. He was renowned for his abhinaya and the ability to transform himself on stage. Legend has him parting crowds just with his gestures.
Late in life he was based in Delhi - a pioneering Kathak teacher whose students included Nirmala and Uma Joshi, Malashri Sen and Reba Vidyarthi (nee Chatterjee). His grandson Naval Kishore taught for many years in New Delhi.
Pt. Gopalji (187? - 1932) was a Court dancer in Khairagarh, Kapurthala and Kashmir. For some time he was also in the Court of Raja Bhupendra Singhji of Patiala. Pandit Gopal was famous for his angika abhinaya. In a temple or courtyard the audience would sit all around him and watch him expressively use his entire body.
Pandit Gopal settled in Lahore and immensely popularized his dance style all over Punjab and beyond - at times the Jankiprasad Gharana, was referred to as the Punjab, Lahore or Gopalji ka Gharana. His notable disciples included Ashiq Hussain, Meera Baksh, and the famous Patiala court dancers Nawab Putli and Hirabai. Late in life, Pandit Gopalji was blessed with a son - Krishna Kumarji.
Pt. Biharilalji (1864-1938) was a handsome and well-built man who performed in many parts of North India. He was fondly called Babuji by artists of his time. He was a Court dancer of Indore, and also performed in the Court of Patiala. Later, he came to Bombay and joined Bal Gandharva's Natak Company as a dancer. Here Ustad Ahmadjan Thirkava was employed as a tabla player and accompanied him.
Biharilalji composed a number of Natawari syllables and was known for his bhava and layakari. He had three sons Kishanlal, Mohanlal and Sohanlal, all dancers. His students included Keshavrao More, Menkabai Belgaonkar and singer Kesarbai Kerkar.
The memory of Ashiq Hussain uncovers some of the most pleasant moments of my childhood. It was he who inculcated a love for the Dance in me.
Ashiq Hussain was better known as a very popular film star of his times, but at heart he was a devoted chela of the Janki Prasad, Benares Gharana of Kathak. I remember making a run of the Bombay Film studios, usually sitting on his shoulders. I was also casted as a child dancing star in two of his films.
This was a long time ago. What is more important now is the memory of the Tukras, Parans and Gats which he taught me.
I have been long associated with Kathak since, but the ‘Bols’ of the Janaki Prasad Gharana stand out distinct to those of the ‘Bols’ of the Jaipur and Lucknow Gharanas of Kathak. I came once again in contact with this, very briefly, when I had the opportunity of being assoicated with Shri Krishna Kumar when the Bharatiya Kala Kendra produced ‘Malati-Madhav’ for the Dance Seminar in 1958.
It is indeed a pleasure now to watch Shri Hazarilal and Smt Sunayana Hazarilal as their ‘Padhant’ reminds me once again of those happy moments of a childhood so rich with Dance & Music.
School of Kathak Dance
Ahmedabad 380 006.
Sunayanaji (orange dress): Avinash Pasricha
Sunayanaji (black-and-white): Sue Jones
Veronica (select portraits): Carolina Echeverría
Neesha (blue dress): Paul Wan
Sri Shakti Academy (Taiwan performance): Danny Chan
Anuradha (select portraits) & Anjali 2021 HK Student Group Portraits: Saurabh Anand – The Artsy Tripod
Maharaja Anup Singh Portrait: Courtesy Anil Relia Collection, Ahmedabad, India
Deepest thanks to our veteran accompanists:
Pandit Kalinath Mishra – Tabla
Somnath Mishra – Vocals
Alka Gujar – Sitar