Ahead of a gig in Santacruz, Sanjeeta Bhattacharya and her artist father get candid about their art forms, as he discovers she’s turning his Bengali poem into a song.

Sanjay and Sanjeeta Bhattacharya

“You should answer this, Baba.” Musician Sanjeeta Bhattacharya’s first response as we chat with the 24-year-old and her father, renowned artist Sanjay Bhattacharya, over the phone before her gig in Mumbai, sets the tone for the 45-minute talk. It’s a long enough window to peek into the nonchalant approach to life and love for moving melodies the two share, evident from the fun banter, mutual respect and appreciation, and charming genuineness. Much like Sanjeeta’s original songs, which are warm, groovy and endearing.

Music and lyrics
Their South Delhi home was a hub for ghazals and tracks by Ghulam Ali, thanks to Bhattacharya senior, who played these in his studio. But he also listened to Boney M. “Only because they pl­ayed it in my college,” he says, adding that light Hindustani cla­­s­sical was (literally) mu­sic to his ears. And then there was also a lot of hard rock, as Sanjeeta’s two elder brothers blasted Linkin Park and Metallica.

Sanjeeta Bhattacharya
Sanjeeta Bhattacharya

“The first song she sang was Pardesi Jaana Nahi. My wife, Bulbul, and I wanted her to learn Hindustani classical, so we signed her up for classes. She would always win in singing competitions at school. We even thought she would become a kathak dancer,” the proud father tells us, adding, “It didn’t bother me that she wouldn’t study Hindustani classical when she got into Berklee College of Music. I couldn’t say no. And now, she’s a better singer than me,” he says. “I have my roots in Hindustani classical. But what I write is influenced by what I’m listening to — flamenco, Balkan and Latin music, and hip-hop. Also, I write better in English,” adds Sanjeeta, who will be rapping this Sunday for the first time.

“Frankly, it’s not my cup of tea,” op­ines Bhattacharya, prompting Sanjeeta to point out that it might be because he connects more to Hindi and Urdu lyrics. “That’s because I can grasp the sentiments in these songs,” he completes her sentence.

“Baba writes poetry in Bangla. I’m turning one of th­em, ti­tled Maa, into a song,” reveals Sanjeeta. “When you tr­a­n­slate it into English, you lose the rhythm,” says Bhattacharya, only to be gently nudged by Sanjeeta that she will be signing in Bengali. “Then it’s okay,” comes the approval. “I really enjoy her songs, I tell you na? That Hindi song, Shams, was really good.” “He gives great feedback.” “But sometimes, it’s hungama!” (laughs)

Art or not?
Speaking about his daughter’s lack of inclination towards art, Bhattacharya says, “She is not into [fine] art. That’s fine because even I stumbled upon art accidentally. I only turned towards it because I didn’t want to deal with books!” And so her journey in the art world has been restricted to drawing the typical mountain sunrise scene with two birds that we all attempt, she admits. “But she has an eye for art. She takes good photographs,” Bhattacharya interrupts. And that’s one art form they both agree on. He was the first one to give her a camera during a road trip to Jaisalmer.

But has he painted a portrait of her? “Once, when she was a kid. I have painted my wife multiple times,” he admits. “There’s only that one picture… maybe you should [paint me]?” quips Sanjeeta. “I will when I’m in the mood.” “He’s not in the mood now.” “You have to reach that level, na.” (Hearty guffaws)

But as diverse as their art forms may be, there are also points of similarity. Both follow the mantra of not taking themselves too seriously. “His feistiness and his drive to try new things inspire me,” Sanjeeta tells us. Bhattacharya takes a minute to point out, “When I was your age, I used to work for 19 hours a day in a single room. The way you go about things, with so much travel involved, is difficult. It’s me who should be inspired now.”

Mumbai calling
Her mother has inspired a song too. Ode to You, which has a rap section that talks about her life as a refugee [she’s from Bangladesh],” says Sanjeeta. Her set will include unreleased songs, she wrote this June when she was down with chicken pox, two Spanish numbers, and a Balkan and a flamenco track.

On August 11, 7 pm
At Santacruz East (address on registeration).
Log on to https://bit.ly/2M9Hbeu
Cost Rs 300 onwards

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