At 87, his energy is infectious as is his immortal passion for music. Legendary classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj, in Bhubaneswar for Music in the Park series started by BDA and Spic Macay, spoke to pragativadi.com about his admiration for Kelucharan Mohapatra, positivity regarding future of classical music and much more. Excerpts:
Q: You have been to Odisha many times before. What are your memories from your earlier visits?
A: I have much regard for this land of art and artistes. It is the home of great artistes like Kelu babu, Sanjuktaji and Raghunath ji. It is what we call “bahuratna vasundhara” in Sanskrit meaning land of many gems and will definitely nurture such amazing artistes in future too.
I remember once in 1972 when I was here for a show, a man kept inquiring at the venue when I would perform. He would come everyday and enquire the same. Finally, on the day of my performance, he came with Rs 10 and requested at the reception to allow him to listen to my performance. Even when he was told it was a ticketless show, he still insisted to pay the Rs 10 which was all he had because he did not want to disrespect artistes. He was a blind carpenter who left me moved then and even today reminds me what Odia people are.
Q: You were good friends with Odissi legend Kelucharan Mohapatra. How do you remember him best?
A: Kelu babu was an utterly simple and innocent soul full of goodness. He was an incomparable artiste and guru who had groomed a gem like Sanjukta ji. I remember crying many times moved with their performances, specially ‘kewat’ (the boatman who ferried Ram, Laxman and Sita in Ramayana). Raghunathji was also a dear friend and another legend from Odisha.
Q: At this age how do you manage to be so passionate about stage performances?
A: Music is no different than my breathing. It is the blessing of the Almighty and love for Krishna that inspire me. Krishna pulled me towards him long back and is the source of my music. Nature, the winds also inspire us artistes who may have prepared to present a certain composition but find some new fresh composition in the air.
Q: Please tell us about your love for sports.
A: We did not have so much live telecast or technology as today sports lovers have. I have been a cricket fan since the times when we had to listen attentively to the radio to even know the score. Today, I love watching cricket, tennis, football and various sports.
Q: There is a lot of concern regarding the future of classical music in the era of Bollywood and pop music. Does it ever bother you?
A: I am a very positive person and with wonderful talented artistes across India, I think the future of classical music in safe hands. It never bothers me. In fact, parents have also started understanding the value of music today and I would say the present times are much better than ours for aspiring artistes.
Q: What is your take on reality shows?
A: Again, I have no complaints against any programme or shows. The artistes at maximum try a film song based on a classical raga. But that’s where any similarity with classical music ends. Reality shows give singers instant recognition whereas to become a decent artiste it takes at least 25 years. But at least some musical programme is engaging people so why complain.