Right from when she was five, Jagyaseni Chatterjee grew up in the spotlight — dancing amidst stage lights and packed crowds. As the daughter of a senior Bengali actor, Soma Dey, known for films like Sagar Balaka and Mayer Ashirbad, Jagyaseni’s childhood was majorly amidst artistes, while trying her hand at fine arts, music, dance and sport, along with academics.
As quite the versatile multi-tasker, she realised Bharatanatyam was her true calling. She took the bold step to live in Chennai, with just `17 in her pocket, and has made her next Bharatanatyam recital possible through crowdfunding. This 30-year-old’s determined journey is nothing short of inspirational!
"I had to juggle a lot right from childhood. I was put under the guidance of Girija Murali in Kolkata at the age of five, to learn Bharatanatyam. I used to perform at many programmes and knew what it looked like with an audience in front right from then. But until I came to Chennai, I didn’t realise that I needed to learn so much more to establish myself professionally," the danseuse shares.
As a full-time dancer, Jagyaseni used to support herself with freelance writing initially. "I have been taught well and supported by my teachers. But training under Dr. Lakshmi Ramaswamy was a turning point in my life. She made me stand up as a soloist in Chennai, and had my debut Margazhi performance in 2016 and then at Krishna Gana Sabha, one of the most prestigious platforms in Chennai, during the following Margazhi (2017). She is the perfect guru that any serious learner would treasure."
But due to various reasons, she ran out of money completely to fund herself, and that’s when the opportunity of performing at Naali’s Aadi Natya Vizha on July 21 landed at her feet and she didn’t want to let go. On how she managed to make enough money through crowdfunding, Jagyaseni recollects, "A friend of mine suggested I try crowdfunding via Milaap and I have managed to raise `56,000 through the campaign. Dance performances tend to be heavy on the pockets of the performers — because until you make a mark, most platforms do not pay. And to make a mark, you need to perform regularly, pay for the orchestra, costumes and more."
The dancer admits that it is quite hard to make a living out of performances alone. "In a profession like art or dance, there is no check point or quality control. But many are trying to equip themselves with knowledge of history, art and culture so that they can conduct lec-dems; many do workshops," she adds.
Besides her dance pursuit, Jagyaseni works with an NGO, AIM for Seva, and the Bengali in her holds Rabindranath Tagore’s songs close to heart.