For Sonal Mansingh, who has dedicated herself to the Indian classical arts for over six decades, it came as no surprise when she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India. She has been on the target of pseudo-secularists for her staunch conviction about the Indian cultural ethos. Another reason for it perhaps is the persecution she had to face for taking a stand against the emergency in 1975 when she had refused to perform. In 2005, under the pressure from Communists, the Sonia Gandhi led UPA ensured her removal from the post of Chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. As she is expected to play a role for Arts and Culture in Parliament, Organiser Correspondent Nishant Kr Azad spoke to her on various issues related to the field. Excerpts:
Many a time you have been labelled as a “saffron artist,” you have taken it with pride. What is so special about the saffron tag?
The ‘saffron” tag came very late in my life. I don”t know when being Indian and taking pride in Indian culture, tradition and art had become sort of a problem. When I went for the Vivekananda”s centenary year in Chicago along with Anuradha Paudwal, Anup Jalota, and Hariprasad Chaurasia, we all performed there, then why is it that only I was picked up? Whether it is Vishwa Hindu Parishad or Communist Marxist Party, whoever invites an artist with respect and without any agenda, it is the duty of the artist to go, perform, and present the best that”s what he or she can.
I find no problem with the colour saffron. I have always loved saffron, as I love other colours red, magenta, pink, and golden. I love all the bright colours that lift my spirit and also give joy and pleasure to the onlooker. I don”t want to feel sick and make others sick by wearing dull colours.
The Sikhs wear saffron turbans and saffron sachets, but nobody calls them saffron, then why is this selective labelling. By the way, I am sure all those who tag people with saffron as if this is an abuse, I will suggest them to eat saffron (kesar); actually, it”s good for their health. Sun is saffron, and you can”t do anything about it. They should also pray to the sun to give them buddhi.
The nation has recently celebrated Guru-Purnima. Share your insights with us on the Guru-Shishya Parampara.
For me, Guru-Shishya parampara is an ancient tradition. Bharatiya parampara has been percolating down since millennia and since time immemorial that has been helping and leading us forward. Sometimes people ask me, why do you give so much of importance to your Guru? I must say “what am I without my Gurus, without Guru, we are nothing.”
In the Bharatiya art forms also the Tapa and Sadhana has a special meaning. Do you think it is common to all variants of art forms, all over Bharat?
I would say Tapasya not Tap. Tapasya comes from the word Taap meaning the heat. So the heat of your Sadhana, Sadhana means I have to achieve it with full excellence under any circumstances, whatever I am trying to do. So the Tapasya and Saadhan go altogether, and without that, you cannot achieve anything. Not only in Bharat, but this has been recognised around the world that without your firm belief and regular practice you can”t accomplish anything. Even among the contemporary singers and dancers, they practice for hours on end; it is also Tapasya and Sadhana.