The Documentary “Kathak Aadi-Kathak” Tracing Indian Classical Dance Kathak’s Roots to Ancient Hindu Art Screened in California

Sunnyvale, CA February 04th 2024: A new feature-length documentary based on years of research by an accomplished dancer is clearing mental cobwebs and dismantling deep-seated prejudices about Kathak, an ancient classical dance form of India. The documentary successfully demonstrates that Kathak is a treasured and vibrant continuation of the rich heritage of Indian dance traditions. 

Audience who attended the screening of the documentary, Kathak Aadi-Kathak, at Irvine, CA on January 14, 2024

The documentary Kathak Aadi-Kathak is visually stunning and lyrical. It beautifully renders Kathak’s story in a conversation it establishes with the audience through dance poses from its practitioners and visuals from many ancient Indian temples. The film proves Kathak’s strong roots in Natyashastra, the 2000-year-old Sanskrit treatise on dance and drama, by mapping most of the famous Kathak dance steps to movements identified by sage Bharata in his work. Contrary to the general conception that Kathak is a less illustrious cousin of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, the documentary shows how all these classical Indian dance forms spring from the same source.

On a national tour to promote her work, Rewa Rawat, a young filmmaker from Pune, India, who wrote and directed the movie, spoke about how Guru Roshan Datye’s 20 years of research inspired her to make this documentary. Answering questions from the audience at the Chinmaya Mission of Los Angeles auditorium in Irvine, CA, recently, she said it took three years for her to produce the movie. A Kathak dancer, Rewa said Guru Roshan dedicated her life to clearing misconceptions about Kathak by going deep into the dance form’s origin and development. As a moviemaker, she wanted to make the movie to take Roshan’s work to the masses.

In a similar event held in Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area on January 28th 2024, there were atleast 10 Kathak Gurus from various ‘Gharanas’ who watched the documentary along with many Bayarea residents. It was interesting to see, teenagers and art students along with families came to see the documentary. One of the Kathak Gurus mentioned that the beautiful depiction of how the postures of the Khathak dance are so closely connected to the ancient temple art and architecture. It was a new revealing and a matter of pride. 

Kathak Gurus with the young Director Rewa Rawat, after screening 'Kathak Aadi-Kathak' at Silicon Valley CA on January 28, 2024

Changed Perceptions

In addition to the history of Kathak, Rewa said, the film explores elements of Indian culture depicted through temple sculptures, which are blindly accepted or labeled orthodox and rejected. “After we visited many temples and stupas in northern India and studied their sculptures, it was evident that social mores and values depicted on the walls of those worship places are, contrary to accusations, far more liberal and progressive,” Rewa added. The documentary indeed gives a youthful perspective to the ancient heritage of India, making it easier for the younger generations to appreciate, accept, and adopt.

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, India produced this documentary in association with Infosys Foundation, India. Rewa and her team visited many temples in India with Guru Roshan and Kathak practitioners Abha Auti and Nidhi Kondejkar to trace and film the relationship between dance poses sculpted on ancient temple walls and the poses in Natyashastra and the dance poses performed in contemporary Kathak. Rewa said an Infosys Foundation fellowship grant and crowdfunding made the film possible, and it received special recognition and funding from Sudha Murthy, the Chairman of the Infosys Foundation. 

Indic Dialogue, a platform dedicated to providing an avenue to explore ideas, issues, and insights and facilitating an open dialogue addressing challenges of the modern world, organized the free screening of Kathak Aadi-Kathak in Irvine. Indic Dialogue organized the event on January 20 in Seattle in partnership with the Smiling Tree and also in Sunnyvale, San Francisco Bay Area on January 28. 

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Indic Dialogue ( is a nonprofit that provides an avenue to explore ideas, issues, and insights and facilitates an open dialogue addressing the challenges of the modern world. Indic Dialogue wants to engage people from various backgrounds and have meaningful conversations in an environment of mutual respect.

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