At a glittering Sangit Kala Kendra Awards function held in Mumbai on the 19th of November 2022, the coveted Aditya Vikram Birla Kalashikhar Puraskar, its highest award, was conferred upon the legendary dancer Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali by Mrs. Rajashree Birla, President of the Sangit Kala Kendra (SKK). The SKK Awards, instituted in 1996 in memory of its iconic founder, the late Mr. Aditya Vikram Birla, are a way of perpetuating his rich legacy in the domain of performing arts.
Alongside, two maestros in the making, Ms. Anwesa Mahanta, the well-known Sattriya dancer, and Mr. Kalamandalam Adithyan of Kathakali fame, were honored with the Aditya Vikram Birla Kalakiran Puraskars.
The SKK Awards jury included the following virtuosi: Dr. Kanak Rele, Chitra Visweswaran, Darshana Jhaveri, and Jayant Kastuar.
The event was also graced by the presence of Eknath Shinde, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Neerja Birla, Ananya Birla, Aryaman Birla, and Vasavadatta Bajaj.
Addressing the august gathering, Mrs. Rajashree Birla recounted some of the unique qualities of SKK’s founding father, Mr. Aditya Vikram Birla. In her words so profoundly spoken, “Adityaji had an amazingly positive outlook on life. He said that to live, you have to love life. One must be happy. Beyond family and beyond work, the performing arts, like music, dance, and theater, help shape the contours of happiness on one’s map of life. And this stoked his passion for performing arts, which in turn birthed the Sangit Kala Kendra.
Showering accolades upon Ms. Vyjayanthimala Bali, Mrs. Rajashree Birla averred, “Vyjayanthimalaji is not only the doyen of dance, the unmatchable dancer at the top, but a versatile actress and a multifaceted persona.” Imagine, as a child of seven, performing a classical Indian dance for Pope Pius XII in Vatican City in 1940.
Walking down memory lane, she shared that both she and the late Mr. Aditya Birla believed that dance cuts across time and space and is actually dreams taking flight, given that dance was the focal point of the awards. They had a restorative, rebuilding creative experience through dance.
In a lighter vein, Mrs. Birla mentioned that even though they enjoyed watching dance performances, Mr. Birla never danced because he joked that he had two left feet.
Between 1998 and 2018, the recipients of the Kalashikhar Puraskar were Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra (1998), Mrs. Mrinalini Sarabhai (2007), Pt. Birju Maharaj (2014), and Dr. Kanak Rele (2018).
The awards were followed by a high-octane dose of entertainment by Madhuri Dixit and Arijit Singh.