With demise of ‘Kathak Legend’ Sitara Devi at the ripe age of 94, the dancing world lost its greatest Kathak Queen. Mourning her death Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan lamented, “The death of Sitara Devi is very sad. She was a legendary classical dancer, vibrant, and filled with the essence of rhythm and movement".
Born in early 1920 in a Brahmin family, Sitara Devi inherited the dance form from her father, Sukhadev Maharaj, a Kathak performer and teacher. However in those days girls performing dance were looked down and labeled as prostitutes. However her father encouraged her to continue citing example of Radha dancing for Lord Krishna. Thus for, Sitara Devi, Katha was spiritual and devotional.
Though the society discarded her initially as a prostitute but her confidence was boosted when Nobel laureate and great freedom fighter Rabindranath Tagore bestowed her with the title of ‘Nritya Samragini’ or ‘Kathak Queen’ of the India.
Sitara Devi (and later Gopi Krishna) gave a new dimension to Kathak in Bollywood. It was due to her that kathak became integral to the film industry since the 1930s. Their choreography accorded new meaning and relief to the film world. She did many movies like "USHA HARAN" (1940), "NAGINA" (1951), "ROTI" and "VATAN" (BOTH 1954), "ANJALI" (1957) AND THE EPIC "MOTHER INDIA" (1957).
She taught her Kathak style to some of the Bollywood film celebrities such as Madhubala, Mala Sinha, Rekha, Kajol and many more.
Eminent choreographer Saroj Khan praising the Kathak dance of Sitara Devi, on her demise mourned, “Kathak is an important dance form in Bollywood and it was Sitara Devi, who gave a momentum to this form in cinema. Today we do see actresses performing Kathak but its purity is missing. The purity was visible when Sitara Devi used to dance.”
Mourning her death India's Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar tweeted “I feel profound grief upon hearing of the demise of famous dancer, performer and singer Sitara Devi. May god bless her soul.”
PM Narendra Modi too recalled her rich contribution to Kathak.
She has awarded with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1969, the Padma Shree award in 1973, Kalidas Samman award in 1995 and Nritya Nipuna award. She has awarded for performing at the Royal Albert and Victoria Hall in 1967 and for prestigious Carnegie Hall, New York in 1976.