SHE COULD have been an actress or classical singer…but Durga Jasraj chose to pursue her own path to carve a niche for herself in a field that encompasses all the traits she has inherited.
Blessed with the legacy of great artistes like Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj (her father) and legendary filmmaker V Shantaram (her maternal grandfather), Durga has had an enviable childhood. The kind of exposure she has had gives her vast opportunities to explore and experiment with many different things. One of her ventures is ‘Art And Artistes’ (AAA), an organisation she has passionately nurtured for the past seven years.
“When we started AAA, we had certain aims focussed mainly on the restoration and welfare of music as a whole. We had a few high aims, but there were also some apprehensions. Over the years, we have learnt a lot through trial and error, but one thing is for sure, some great people in the field of music are now associated with us. That has given a big fillip to our organisation,” Durga told Hindustan Times here on Friday.
They started by organising events - including the very first football match for Kargil martyrs wherein AAA handed over Rs 2.5 crore to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the Kargil fund – and catering to preserve and nourish musical talent across the country by different ways. This included music albums from concept to creation to TV production and event management.
However, Durga felt a deeper need to take up the cause of Indian music. “Indian Music Academy (IMA) was born out of this thought. We (Durga and Vikram Shankar) perceive it as a platform for the young talent to showcase their skills. We also want to motivate the youngsters to take up Indian music, not for a few years, but as a lifelong passion and a profession,” Durga elaborated.
The IMA Jalsa series is being organised to promote and provide such young talent who share a platform with a great classical musician. The concert on Sunday at Indore is the fifth in the series of a total of 12 to be organised across India during the span of a year.
Quiz her on the difference between IMA’s efforts and the ‘n’ number of song and dance shows being the order of the day in the electronic media, also purportedly promoting musical talent, she sits up as if to defend something pure that has been vitiated.
“See, there is nothing wrong with reality singing shows on TV. But, don’t compare the two. IMA is necessarily a serious effort. We have a galaxy of great musicians as patrons who select the performer, unlike TV shows, where the winner is mostly chosen on mass appeal through SMS.”
“IMA’s sole purpose is to work for the benefit of music and musicians. We aim at promoting talented people who are serious about pursuing music life long. IMA gives dignity, a different stature to the artists,” she said. However, she went on to add, “I don’t say there is anything wrong with TV shows.
Their format is different; their audience is different… mass appeal is a big factor there. If somebody embarks on a musical journey after being attracted by the show format, that should be treated as a good thing.”
With Pandit Jasraj as founder member and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Javed Akhtar and Ustad Zakir Hussain as key patrons, the IMA also has several top ranking names in the field of music as its patrons and several other masters as members. The IMA has generated a lot of goodwill through medical assistance for poor and the needy music greats.
“We have a tie-up with several hospitals in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Chennai. Likewise, we also have tie ups with leading doctors in various fields. We give medical assistance to needy musicians and their dependents. Big pharma companies like Nicholas Piramal too have come forward with contribution in this noble cause,” adds Durga with a glint of happiness in her eyes.
AAA had instituted a `Radiant Life Time Award’ for fusion some years ago. When asked if recognising `fusion’ would lead to diluting the `pure’ classical forms and various gharans, like the one pursued by her father – the Mewati gharana - she says, “That is actually a misnomer. It has catered to world music. Over the year, the concept has evolved and more and more people are experimenting in this genre of music. I would call it as `world music’ instead and yes, may be by next year, we would be able to revive the award.”
Balancing different roles – actress, TV anchor, singer, event manager – what is one role, which she identifies with more? “Well, I think all my activities, all my ventures have contributed to my overall growth – as a person, as an artiste and also as a human being. Thanks to my legacy, I got exposure to diverse things since childhood. All that is reflected in the things I do, I experiment.”
Her ‘creations’ like `panchtatva’ and `tiranga’ are proof enough of her way of thinking and her courage to experiment. “But, one thing I cannot be is an actor in a serial running for three-four years. Bhai, you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, how can you commit for two-three years. Plus, my engagements through my company keep me on toes all the while, so it’s really hard to find time.
But my Dadaji always wanted me to become an actress. Let me see, if there is something short but strong, I may try it.” She claims she declines at least three roles every week.
As of today, Durga says she is happy doing music-related events. “Being part of AAA or IMA gives me a huge sense of responsibility. This is something I am very passionate about and am loving every moment of it.”
(Durga Jasraj is in town in connection with the Idea Jalsa’s fifth concert to be held at Yeshwant Club on October 15, 2006 at 7.30 pm)