'An Artiste Must Know how to Package His Art': Jogiraj Sikidar

'An Artiste Must Know how to Package His Art': Jogiraj Sikidar

Founder of Dubai's first music choir, Malhaar, Jogiraj Sikidar talks about the challenges of promoting cultural events

Like most creative artistes, Jogiraj Sikidar rues that he lacks the “business acumen” needed to give art its rightful space in society. But what he has in abundance is passion for music and theatre. Recently, Malhaar, the first Indian music choir in Dubai he founded in 2010 held a spectacular musical, Draupadi: The Voice of Dignity. Over the years, this NSD-trained journalist-musician has put up successful and well-acclaimed shows like Rooh-e-Ishq, a musical tribute to four Sufi masters; Jashn-e-Awadh, a musical journey to the kingdom of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and O Ganga, The Echoes from the River of Life. Trained in classical music under stalwarts such as Pandit Mani Prasad and Shikha Ganguli and later, Rita Ganguli and Kankana Banerjee, Jogiraj’s productions are a beautiful mix of history, mythology, music and dance. We chatted with the multi-talented artiste…

 What was the biggest challenge of putting Draupadi… together?

It was a herculean task to concise Draupadi’s story, which was literally of epic proportions to a 90-minute production, and to weave the storyline in rhythmic style while keeping her story relevant to contemporary times.

 What fascinates you most about Draupadi?

Draupadi soldiered on despite all odds. She challenged her destiny and came across as a woman who always fought for her dignity and emerged triumphant. She was a princess and the wife of five most powerful men of that era but she fought her life’s battles on her own with help from Krishna. She made it a point to win each and every battle of her life to protect her dignity. I believe a bit of Draupadi exists in every woman even today, irrespective of country, race and religion.

 The emotions and layers of female characters have often dominated your work; any special reason for this? 

Through the ages we have seen that women have been given the highest seat but the ground reality is very different. At every stage of my life a woman has played a big role in helping me attain my goal. During my growing up years, it was my mother and sister who supported me in my endeavours and now my wife Mily is my core strength.

How would you rate the current theatre scene in Dubai as compared to a few years ago when you put up your first production?

In the last few years there has been a huge spurt in the number of cultural programmes in Dubai. However, when it comes to Indian events, it’s mostly dominated by Bollywood. A good mix of Bollywood and non-Bollywood events would give the audience a better variety.

How do you tackle the eternal tussle between commerce and art?

It’s very important for an artiste to know how to package and sell his/her art. When it comes to performing arts it’s all the more important. When an artiste is performing, he or she is not doing it for himself or herself. Hence if he/she can’t convince the advertiser, how can you expect to convince the audience to pay and come to watch the show?

What are you reading currently?

Begum Akhtar: Love’s Own Voice by S. Kalidas and Ae Mohabbat… Reminiscing Begum Akhtar by Jyoti Sabharwal and Rita Ganguly.

Who are your biggest inspirations in cinema, poetry, theatre and dance?

It’s very difficult to say but my creative thoughts have been greatly influenced by Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Ghalib, Amir Khusro, Bulle Shah, Rumi and Kabir.

How necessary is it for an artiste to be a good businessman?

It’s a must. Unfortunately, I lack that skill.

What else can we look forward to from Malhaar over the next few months?

This year is the 100th birth anniversary of Begum Akhtar.  I am planning to organise a festival around her life and legacy. It would be Malhaar’s tribute to the legend.

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