By Sahana Ghosh
Kolkata, Oct 25 (IANS) Late Indian classical music icon Girija Devi lived the art form in “every way” and it was her musical pursuit and passion that brought her close to her businessman husband Madhusudan Jain, almost 20 years her senior, reminisced vocalist Debapriya Adhikary.
Mentored by Girija Devi for over a decade, Adhikary and sitarist Samanwaya Sarkar (of the duo DebSam) directed a documentary film on the legend titled “Girija : A Lifetime In Music”, along with Sankalp Meshram, with the aim to “bring out her original persona and philosphy behind her music”.
Girija Devi played a key part in popularising and raising the profile of Thumri, that gave her the appellation Thumri Queen.
Appaji (as she was fondly called) was married to Jain at the age of 15.
“It was a very loving and nice relationship. But her husband was definitely a very strict person and she used to abide by all rules and regulations always. If she had to go to a concert for one day and another concert was scheduled in two days time, she was not allowed to stay there for more than one day.
“She had to do it and come back and she could go again. And she maintained those. She maintained her household, did husband’s ‘sewa’ and everything because they had an age difference of almost 20 years,” Adhikary told IANS.
“She maintained those and (that’s why) her husband also supported and the music was also the key to bring her close to her husband. He used to organise concerts and all and that in a way was a help for her,” he said.
Part of the film was shot in Banaras (Varanasi), where Girija Devi grew up and spent a significant part of her life. Other parts were filmed in Kolkata on the campus of the Sangeet Research Academy, where she taught.
The film also includes rare footage from her old concerts, and interviews with maestros of Indian classical music and dance like Ravi Shankar, Abdul Rashid Khan, Birju Maharaj, Kishori Amonkar, Hari Prasad Chaurasiya, Rajan-Sajan Misra, and Amjad Ali Khan.
In the biography section of the documentary’s website, it is stated: “When I (Girija Devi) was just fifteen years old, I was married to Shri Madhusudan Jain, a businessman who was truly a lover of music and poetry. I was fortunate to have so much support from my husband. A year after our marriage, we had a baby girl.
“My husband continued to support my musical career — but I soon felt the strains and demands of domestic life interfering with my practice.”
“I decided to go away to Sarnath for a year. My husband found a small place for me, and I lived there with my maid while my mother took care of my daughter. My husband and Guru Srhichand-ji visited me every evening. I continued to take rigorous music lessons from my guru and I practiced for several hours every day, starting at 3:30 a.m.
“That one year of deep, spiritual practice, Sadhana, changed my life. The hard work paid off. I came back to Banaras (Varanasi) with a new insight of what sur, a musical note, really means.”
She further says: “It is hard to believe that in 1949, I had already officially launched a career as a professional musician. With my husband’s support, I kept learning, performing and travelling to music festivals. My husband did not want me to perform at private concerts, and I was happy to accommodate his wishes.”
Adhikary and Sarkar are both “Gandabandh disciples” (ordained disciple) of Girija Devi.
“She lived music in every way, even for simple things like eating, cooking etc. If you were to place a glass on a surface, she used to say ‘ismein bhi sangeet dikhna chahiye’ (this action must also showcase the musical quality). It’s very tough to define it in words. She is an inspiration for everyone irrespective of gender,” Adhikary said, continuing to refer to his ‘Gurumaa’ in the present tense.
Adhikary attested to her admirable “strength and will.”
“She never resented, never complained about health… we saw her living the music in every aspect. She was never satisfied. So that should be the message for youngsters because youngsters nowadays learn music for five to six years and then they feel they are done. She challenged herself in every way,” the vocalist added.
(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at [email protected])
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