The Telegraph She Awards 2021 saw women achievers being feted
Sports: Mouma Das
Her story: Her journey as a table tennis player started quite early in life. She was a restless child, prompting her parents to put her into sports. She started her career in sport following in the footsteps of her father and uncle. Her first tournament was the Writer’s Building Tournament where she played in the finals and won silver. She participated in the 1997 Commonwealth Games quarter-finals, perhaps one of the first Indian woman to do so. Commonwealth Games, two Olympics, 400 international matches against 75 countries followed. She brought home more than 100 gold medals and has been honoured with the prestigious Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri.
She said: Thank you The Telegraph and IIHM. I have come so far with all your blessings. I gave birth to my baby last year. Please keep showering your blessings on me, so that I can perform and give many more medals to India. Don’t pressurise yourself too much is my message for youngsters. Nowadays, people don’t want to rely on one coach, and go to different coaches. But I would ask all parents to be a little patient, stick to one coach and keep faith. Their children will surely reach their destination one day, no matter what field they choose.
Dance: Amita Dutt
Her story: As a young girl, dance gave her joy and lifted her spirits. When dance was still looked upon as only an extracurricular activity, she dared to leave mainstream academics and pursue it as a profession. She has combined dance and academics with the various prestigious posts she has held at Rabindra Bharati University over the years —Uday Shankar Chair as professor of dance, head of the department and dean. Trained under Birju Maharaj, she has been active as a Kathak dancer for over two decades and has performed across three continents. She has performed at prestigious cultural festivals globally and also for the former president of India, Ramaswamy Venkataraman and former Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.
She said: I express my gratitude to The Telegraph and to IIHM. The ABP Group helped me to grow up and introduced me to the world of Calcutta. That I should be getting this award from The Telegraph means so much to me. Art has been so much a part of my life, whether I felt sad or happy. Whatever emotion I ever felt, art was the outlet. I could dance and forget everything else. I could forget the world and immerse myself in my dance. I can’t think of myself ever not dancing. In fact, my guruji always said, you do not have to do movement always in order to dance. You can think, you can imagine your whole world, your whole life should be dedicated to dance. Think dance, imagine dance and perform dance. So that is me, the dancer that is able to dance.
Theatre: Swatilekha Sengupta
Her story: Her theatre career started as a five-year-old, and as a child she performed in English, Bengali and Hindi plays. She performed in adaptations of many Shakespearean plays, initially. Moving from Allahabad to Calcutta in 1974, she performed in over 60 plays before joining Nandikar in 1978. Her solo performance as Shanu Roychowdhury in her husband Rudraprasad Sengupta’s play is a memorable character from her stage oeuvre. Her remarkable performance in Satyajit Ray’s film Ghare Baire as Bimala, and 30 years later in films like Bela Sheshe, has struck a chord in the hearts of the audience. A recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi award for theatre acting, she remains devoted to theatre as a practitioner and teacher for about 50 years now.
She said: As a child, theatre was like a picnic for me. But after growing up, I had to learn and understand a lot about theatre. I started acting in films since Ghare Baire, and it was 30-40 years back, that seems like a dream now. Then after 30 years of Ghare Baire came my mentor Shiboprosad Mukherjee. He has placed me so high on a pedestal that even I fail to understand. I am very grateful to him. I am grateful to Nandikar, which has given me the stage for so many years. Now, I am looking forward to two more films. These awards are very important but these come to you at a time when one is not fit enough to enjoy life to the full. But at the same time, it is very inspiring and it inspires one to live once again.
Creative Arts: Jayasri Burman
Her story: Born in a traditional household, Jayasri Burman was inspired by her mother pursuing her hobbies amidst looking after the family and was introduced to the work of Rabindranath Tagore by her father. She later studied art in Santiniketan’s Kala Bhavan, where she came in close contact with teachers and artistes like Sarbari Roy Choudhury, Ajit Chakraborty and Suren Dey. She further continued her education in Government College of Art and Craft in Calcutta and learnt print-making in Paris. Working more than 17-18 hours a day and finding inspiration in Indian mythology, its deities and worshipping of the goddesses, ‘mother’ gains a prominent position in her paintings. Her work gives a message about nurturing the mother and Mother Earth. Apart from presenting at various exhibitions globally, she has many accolades to her name, including the National Academy Award.
She said: Works of artistes like Meera Mukherjee, Arpita Singh and Amrita Sher-Gil inspire me. I was brought up looking at their paintings and this award is really a big inspiration for me. I want to thank IIHM and The Telegraph for the She Award. Also, I am very grateful and thankful to the jury who has given me this award and honoured me for my journey as an artiste.
Music: Indrani Sen
Her story: Starting her training in singing as early as four with mother and noted Rabindrasangeet exponent Sumitra Sen, Indrani Sen has left a mark in different genres throughout her career, especially Rabindrasangeet. A professor of economics and the principal of Women’s College, she has balanced administrative work with teaching. Despite having dual responsibilities, her singing remains her constant companion and she still performs at various shows and records albums.
She said: I thank the team of The Telegraph and IIHM. I am speechless and spellbound. It was a privilege for me as a daughter of a celebrity, as I could get the platform. I used to get chances but there I had to prove myself. In one way I had the advantage but people would look at me to test or see how I perform (as a daughter of a celebrity). This was the attitude. I think I have come a long way following the path of music as well as the path of education. I have been teaching since the last 38 years and I have been in the music world since the last 45 years. And so, I am very much thankful to the jury for selecting me as one of the awardees of this prestigious award. I have realised that once a woman knows what she can do she has to earn it by herself. No one is going to gift anything to you. I murmur this beautiful song of Rabindranath as a mantra. This is the mantra of my life: Bipod ey morey rokkha koro ey nohey mor prarthana. Bipod ey ami na jeno kori bhoy... (sings).
Literature: Tilottama Majumdar
Her story: She grew up surrounded by a literary ambience at home, as a voracious reader. A studious pupil, she took up math for her graduation, which ended in a big disappointment for her. This failure brought her closer to her passion for writing, where she would escape into a different world away from her blues. Her poems, novels, stories, essays and books have been published by Ananda Publishers and Desh and have been translated into several languages too.
She said: Thank you to The Telegraph, all associates and partners. Awards inspire and help to enhance self-esteem and confidence, but this sort of initiative has a great impact in the society because it sends some messages. It teaches one how to look at women, how to accolade women and it even teaches to welcome female foetus in mother’s womb.
I have a novel called Rajpat based on Murshidabad, the border region, where people from different religious beliefs peacefully reside, like Muslims and Hindu. Murshidabad and Malda, the districts near Ganges, they have a difficulty as well as a blessing. The erosion of the Ganges gives them silt useful for their farming but sometimes engulfs an entire village in one day. Centering this process, an extremely dirty politics happens. In this novel, the character Moyna Vaishnavi, a simpleton, goes about villages singing and starts a protest, out of which the first is about women trafficking and second is about the politics centering the river erosion. Moyna gets murdered. We all know that rise of any protest, throughout ages, is always plotted and killed. Moyna Vaishnavi inspires such a youth who used to believe in communist ideologies and he starts a new journey depending on humanity and starts a protest to love people with honesty. Moyna Vaishnavi is my favourite protagonist from my body of work.
Films: Swastika Mukherjee
Her story: She is an acting talent like few others. Spunky, sassy, stylish... she’s all this and more. She is well-known for playing characters who are survivors and fighters in their own way. She made a splash last year with strong, critically acclaimed performances in Paatal Lok and Dil Bechara.
She said: The Telegraph has been like family and I have been associated with them forever. I have known everyone on a personal level. We have been friends and family forever. It has been a very long journey. It has been 20 years now and I feel pretty old already. It was heart-touching, made me very emotional. I just hope that I have made my father very proud today.
Hall of fame: Usha Uthup
Her story: She is everyone’s favourite Didi, a pop icon who has been wowing audiences for more than 50 years now. On any given day the lady in her signature sari-bindi combo can work up a frenzy with her voice and talk, and take you back to yesterday once more with songs like Fever and Dum maro dum. As a performer, she is fantastic, full of confidence, high on energy and ready with a quip. She has a charismatic personality and great stage presence. And the way she presents herself on stage touches a chord with the youth. Fans feel she is lively and energetic... and they feel like dancing all the time to her songs. She is special because of her spontaneity, vivacity, her capacity to involve the crowd and the way she touches the hearts of everyone from five to 95.
She said: Thank you to The Telegraph! I have known The Telegraph since its inception and I am so grateful to all of you for giving me this amazing award. Receiving an award is always so wonderful but it is also a huge responsibility because it means you have to be better than the last moment and that’s where I am headed to, being better, so that all of you feel I have done you proud. Thank you very much She Award. What a great honour and privilege to receive this prestigious award. With all humility and gratitude I say thank you very much.
Entrepreneur: Supriya Roy
Her story: Her journey started in 1990, when she opened a small shop called The Sugarr & Spice. Married off early, she found her mentors in her parents, her father-in-law and her elder brother. Despite facing various challenges in the initial days and throughout her journey, like financial ones, quality control of the products and marketing, she persevered to expand her brand to over 125 outlets in Bengal. She considers herself a human first before her gender and strives for betterment each day at what she does.
She said: I want to thank The Telegraph, She Awards and IIHM. I am an ex-student of IIHM, so this is a big award for me today. To give every person the satisfaction of taste and win their hearts through food is the key word. Personally, I like snacks and I am a cake lover too. I love children and in every person there is a child. If we can hold on to that inner child till our last day then we will be very happy. And this is what we are ceaselessly working at, to give kids what they like the healthy way and win their hearts.
Watch out for more The Telegraph She Awards coverage in t2 on Monday, February 22