When the worlds of Indian classical music and Indian classical dance collide, the effect can only be sensational! No surprises then, that when santoor maestro Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya crossed paths with Odissi exponent Sanchita Bhattacharya, sparks flew, and the connection was instant.
Tarunís inception into the world of Indian classical music began at the age of four. He mastered the instrument under his father, Pt Rabi Bhattacharya and Pt Dulal Roy. And today, 25 years after he began touring the world, Tarun Bhattacharya is clearly a force to reckon with. Consider innumerable concerts at some of the most sacrosanct venues across the world including the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels; over 60 solo albums; musical associations with Pandit Ravi Shankar and the late George Harrison; and a host of awards. Yet the maestro remains strangely dissatisfied. ďIím never happy with my musicĒ, he says. His search for musical virtue continues in his latest album, A Spiritual Journey with Bikram Ghosh, a classical confection in a devotional format.
Sharing Tarunís heart and home is wife Sanchita, a noted Odissi exponent herself and one who has travelled the length and breadth of the globe performing to sold-out auditoriums. Dancing since the age of two, it was only in 1995 that this MBA holder decided to devote all her waking hours to dance. ďEverything else in life just faded to accommodate my passion for dance,Ē she says. Presently Sanchita is busy working on The Draupadi Phenomenon, a project, which Sanchita will soon be taking to Singapore and the US. And when sheís not performing on stage, she divides her time between Calcutta and the US, putting students through the paces at her dance schools.
Even after five years of marriage, Tarun and I remain very much in love, sharing everything in life ' even our coffee and tea. We always drink from the same cup. At the same time, though, we donít share the stage, because there, we are two different entities with our own identities.
I first met Tarun at a function in Kala Mandir. I was one of the performers that day and Tarun was the chief guest. But he arrived late and I was furious. I later came to know that it was due to a procession on the road. Nevertheless, when I was introduced to him at the time, I boldly questioned him about his delay. Of course, he was a bit taken aback at my impudence. Later, Tarun confessed that he was only planning to make a five-second appearance at the event. It was my bold attitude however, that intrigued him and made him change his mind. After that, things just took off. It wasnít long before he landed my phone number and began wooing me with a vengeance. Our first date was at Aaheli at the Peerless Inn and gradually, without us even realising it, we drew closer. After about 10 months, he proposed and I of course, accepted.
What drew me to Tarun in the first place was of course, the music, You see on a deeper level, one must understand that good music can only come from a good man. And Tarunís honesty, simplicity, humility and innate wit are all reflected in his music. While all this attracted me to him, what has made our marriage work is that ours is a fearless relationship ' one where we can say anything without fearing the otherís reaction. Our friendship has also evolved over time. Even if weíve had a fight, I will never go up on stage without touching his feet. It is true that Iíve learned a great deal from my gurus, but I have learnt so much more from Tarun.
From the merits to the demerits! I get really annoyed with Tarun when he doesnít shave. When we go out, we have a tendency to try and look our best. But I believe, we should look our best for our loved ones at home too. Also, Tarun is like a shock absorber. Even if the entire world goes topsy-turvy, he never loses his temper with anyone ' save me. You see, suddenly when things become too much for him to bear, he vents his fury on me. Also, everyone knows that Tarun is extremely possessive about me. I donít really perform with male dancers, as he doesnít like it. I remember once when I was performing the role of Mahishasura Mardini, I naturally had to place my leg on the male dancerís chest. Now Tarun didnít like that!
Professionally speaking ' and I say this as a fellow artist, not as his wife ' Tarun is very famous all over the world and people go gaga over his music. Yet I feel that he is an even greater musician than the level of fame he enjoys. He is truly one of the greatest musicians this soil has produced. One has to share his music to know this.
Iím hardly a novice when it comes to marriage, having been married previously for 15 years. Yet, my marriage with Sanchita is entirely different ' itís a perfect amalgam of life and work, of love and art. Thatís what works for us! What struck me about Sanchita the very first time we met, was that, even though she knew who I was, she was hardly the simpering, gushing kind. Sanchita was very different ' frank and forthright and not at all afraid to speak her mind.
I really appreciate this fearless quality in her. In fact, thatís what attracted me to her in the first place. Usually, no one has the nerve to point out a flaw in my music. Yet I can always bank on Sanchita to tell me if Iíve missed out on a particular taal or if I need to re-record a certain piece . So, yes, we always look to each other for professional advice.
Besides my wife being very pretty, what I love about her is that sheís one tough cookie. She can do almost anything she puts her mind too, with the exception of one little thing ' tuning the santoor. But what annoys me is that sheís a bit forgetful when it comes to the smaller, everyday things and that sheís not yet learned to drive the car. Also, Sanchita tends to get a bit extra emotional about everything and takes everything thatís said to her to heart. At the same time, though, her emotional quality serves her well in her dance. In fact, I realised that this was the woman I wanted to marry when I first saw her dance, about nine months after we began seeing each other. Her performance on stage was a remarkable essay of pure emotion.
What I admire about Sanchita from a professional point of view is that she treats every performance ' be it big or small ' with the same dedication and enthusiasm. Sheís a true perfectionist all right!
Photograph by Rashbehari Das