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Tribute to Guru Pandit Anupam Rai
- Vijay Shanker
Photos courtesy: Anurita Rai

July 3, 2021

Mumbai based veteran classical music and Kathak dance mentor, choreographer and composer Pandit Anupam Rai left for his heavenly abode, early morning on Sunday 27th June 2021 following a cardiac arrest. He was diabetic and was also affected by Covid but had recovered from it. He leaves behind his wife Rita, daughter Anurita and son Anuratna, besides several disciples. He was 62.

Born in Prayag, Allahabad, on 7th August 1959, Anupam was blessed by Yogi Devraha Baba, interpreting a verse from Tulsidas's Shri Ramcharitmanas “Anupam Balak, Dekhu Jaee” referring to none other than lord Rama himself, hence insisted that the child should be named Anupam. Anupam belonged to a family of music and dance lovers; his mother was a professional singer with Akashwani. As a young child, Anupam was quite adamant and disciplined and would not stop crying until he saw his first mentor Swami Vidyanand. He was a child prodigy and already became a part of the Balsang group of Akashwani and started performing at the tender age of 4. He joined the Annie Besant School and after 8th standard enrolled at the Government Inter College and later completed his graduation at the Allahabad Vishwavidyalaya.

As the Sanskrit verse says, “Geetam, Vadyam thatha Nrityam trayam Sangeetamuchayate”, young Anupam at the tender age of nine, had mastered vocal music, instrumental music playing tabla, harmonium, pakhawaj and the dance form Kathak. He learnt these art forms from accomplished masters like Pandit Lalji Shrivastava, director of Prayag Sangeet Samiti and tabla maestro who mastered three gharanas of tabla - Farrukhabad, Banaras and Delhi. Anupam also learnt from masters like Pandit Bholnath Bhatt, Pt Bhuvan Prakash Shrivastava, Ustad SD Dede and Prof Chandraban Kishore Shrivastava. At the age of 13, Anupam became a composer too. He learnt Kathak from Pandit Santosh Bhat, Pt Gopal Mishra of Jaipur Gharana and Pt Lachchu Maharaj of Lucknow Gharana. Later he worked as a music and dance teacher at Prayag Vishwavidyalaya and other institutions.

After migrating to Mumbai, Anupam established Anupam Academy of Performing Arts and presently the legacy moves forward with his dancer wife Rita Rai, daughter Anurita (singer and Kathak dancer) and son Anuratna (singer, composer and teacher). Among his disciples are Madhukar Anand, Kalpana Sharma, Ruchi Sharma who is acclaimed for her 15 hours record breaking performance, Narahari, Anupama Sharma, Manoj Gupta, actress Padma Khanna, Bhaskar Das, Ananya Kakade, Montu Giri from Agra etc. Though he has several compositions to his credit, only some have been recorded. Winner of several honours and awards, Anupam never commercialized the arts.

Disciple Narhari who learnt tabla, Kathak and pakhawaj says, “Guruji was a rare scholar and genius with mastery in vocal music, instrumental and Kathak dance. He has hundreds of compositions to his credit, but only few have been recorded. He had knowledge of the Sastras and knew quite well as to how poetry can be composed in music with a spiritual underlying message. We will always miss his presence.”

Vijay Shanker
Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.

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