Kathak was not a familiar word for the residents of this dusty village in Beed district, and when arguably the greatest doyen of the dance form came calling, most of them had their eyes glued to the sleek camera she was carrying.
“Sitara Devi had come to Ambajogai town in 1975 for the 60th birthday celebrations of my father Shankarbapu Apegaonkar. Then Union minister Y B Chavan was also present at the function,” noted Pakhwaj player Uddhav Apegaonkar told PTI.
“Immediately after the event, she insisted that the late Shankarbapu, Pakhwaj player of repute who was later awarded Padmashri, take her to his native place,” Uddhav said.
“Sitara Devi asked Shankarbapu that she would like to visit his village. So the entire entourage drove to Apegaon, where she had her first taste of Maharastrian rural life,” Uddhav said.
“The villagers gathered outside our house, gazing at her and also at her camera, with which she went about snapping photos of the cattle shed and the racks of earthen pots used to store grains,” Uddhav said.
“When Bapu asked her what would she like for lunch, she said: Please don’t prepare anything special. I will have the same meal as the villagers. So, she ended up tasting the jowar bhakri (roti), pithle and onion without peeling or slicing it,” Uddhav, who runs a music school named after Shankarbapu in Aurangabad, said.
“What my neighbours still recall is her warmth and the sense of genuine affection with which she interacted with them. Today, when news of her passing away reached here, some people, who were in their teens then, recalled their meeting with the legend,” Uddhav said.