'Time just passed like that, no regrets'

Words of wisdom

Rita Ganguly, who recently celebrated her 75th birthday, says, “I was extremely fortunate to be born into a brilliant family and luckier to have eight outstanding teachers.  Life has been giving, considering I am not from a professional musician’s family. The time just passed away, no regrets.”

An Indian classical musician, vocalist, author and the founder of Kaladharmi, a non-profit organisation for promotion of performing arts, and Begum Akhtar Academy of Ghazals (BAAG), a ghazal academy, in her career spanning many decades, she has won accolades
from all over.

“I started accidentally at the age of two-and-a-half. Overnight, I became a superhit. Eventually, I became a dancer first and went around the world to perform. I realised that when you are sad, dance is of no use and that the truly abstract form of expression is vocal music. It is not something which you can choose manually. All other forms of art aspire to be close to music. For instance, ‘this painting is like music’ which means abstraction,” she tells Metrolife.

“You need methods for forms of expressions if you have something to say. I am happy that whatever little I have done is only through the virtue of hard work. Nothing in my life
has come easily,” she adds.

Born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh to Meena and K L Ganguly, a freedom fighter and writer, she says, “When I was very young, one day, my mother told me, ‘Don’t be anxious. You will get exactly what you are destined to. And what you will not, is not for you. So, never compare yourself with others. That learning has come very handy. I never learnt to be jealous of anybody. It is one feeling which I have never experienced. It is true that I am grateful to people who are against me. But for them, life would not have been fun. There won’t be any fights.”

“Most satisfying thing was my 35 years at the National School of Drama. I was initiated into theatre by none other than Ebrahim Alkazi who selected me to be in his academic staff. He used to say, ‘Ritaji, don’t worry. If the students are not interested, I would learn from you. He actually came for a year or so to attend my classes.”

Trained at the Martha Graham School, New York, she joined the faculty at the National School of Drama, Delhi (NSD) and set up a pioneering course in mime and movement.

“Since I was a trained Kathakali dancer, I understood that in a globalised world, language cannot be a barrier. Theatre should be beyond language. When I started as a faculty at NSD, throughout the world in theatre, the word, ‘movement’ did not exist. It is my contribution. I designed, I worked out this term, ‘movement’. When I started training, I developed the whole course after travelling across the country. I know that the theatre world thinks I am a singer, but I know this is the greatest contribution as far as I have done in the theatre world because movement is an integral part of any theatre workshop. I was very happy that people in London gave me a brilliant reception and felicitated me very recently and incorporated ‘movement’ as part of theatre training. That is the greatest achievement in my life,” the celebrated artiste says.

She has great expectations from the younger generation of artistes. “I have great hope in the younger generation. They are much luckier.”

“These are the days of narrow specialisation. But originally, theatre was the culmination of all forms of art. So, if you want to be the ‘nayak’, you would have to know everything. The great people that I have known as a child, they were experts in many things, not just one. Then only could they express in one. All these people are in fact brilliant cooks. That is the whole activity of ras-swad. You know how to cook, you know how to serve and you know how to satisfy a palate. That is the whole learning,” she says.

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