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Pandit Jasraj sings a different tune

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Pandit Jasraj, the doyen of northern Indian classical music, is singing a different tune these days.

The 74-year-old practitioner of the Mewati gharana, the style of music originating in India's desert state of Rajasthan, has just sung a number for Bollywood.

The legendary artiste, who was in Kathmandu to flag off celebrations of the 55th Republic Day of India under the aegis of the Indian embassy, regards Bollywood with indulgence, unlike many other maestros who feel Hindi film music trivialises classical notes.

"Ek Hasina Thi", directed by Sriram Raghavan and starring Urmila, Saif Ali Khan and Seema Biswas, will probably be more appreciated by classical music lovers for the little number in it sung by the maestro, who holds the distinction of having been honoured with the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibushan by the Indian government.

"My daughter Durga, who is associated with the film industry, sent me two men with a note that they had something that would appeal to me. Please help them all you can, she said.

"I liked the music the men had brought and agreed to sing," is how Pandit Jasraj dismisses his foray into filmdom.

But then, this is not his first association with Bollywood.

"I sang a Hindi song in a Bengali film in 1955," says the maestro who spent 14 of his formative years in Kolkata.

"It was called Jadu Bhatt, after the music guru of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The music director was Jnan Prakash Ghosh."

He recalls having sung for a Bollywood film, "Phir Bhi", and some others made by his father-in-law V. Shantaram, regarded as one of the pioneers of Indian cinema.

But Bollywood is not the lone different note Pandit Jasraj strikes.

At a time when maestros are grooming their children to take up their mantle - like Pundit Ravi Shanker with daughter Anoushka, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with sons Aman Ali and Ayan Ali and many more - Pandit Jasraj feels heirs are born, not made.

"Only two artistes could truly say their children are their true heirs," he says.

"One is tabla maestro Ustad Allah Rakha whose son Zakir Hussain has inherited his talent and the other is singer Kishori Amonkar, who inherited the artistry of her mother Moghu Bai. You can only plan but it might not bear fruit. Everything is in the hands of God."

His own children, despite being known in their own rights, do not follow his art form.

While son Shaarangdev is a music director, daughter Durga is known as the former feisty hostess of Zee Antakshari as well as an actress.

"They have two types of genes," Pandit Jasraj explains. "Mine and their mother's, whose father was a pillar of the film industry.

"Their mother's genes proved dominant and they decided to make a career in the world of showbiz. I am proud of what they have achieved."

Without even pausing to think, he comes up with the names of eight of his disciples from states as diverse as Kolkata, Maharashtra, Assam and Gujarat, who he says are doing him proud.

"There's Sanjeev Abhayankar, who is very advanced. Then there are Rattan Mohan Sharma, (his nephew), Tripti Mukherjee, Gauri Siddhant and so many others," he says.

"But it is not possible for an artiste to say so and so is my successor. He should leave it in the hands of God."


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