Going solo with a crowd

By R Chitra Published on Jul 18, 2017 05:16 PM IST

Chennai: Two things stand out about Jagyaseni Chatterjee: her immense dedication to Bharatanatyam and her never-say-die attitude to become a performer.

A student of guru Lakshmi Ramaswamy of Kotturpuram, Jagyaseni (Pooja to her friends) has now found a way to support her latest dance recital scheduled for 21 July - crowdfunding. She claims this is the first crowdfunded solo Bharatanatyam recital.

Jagyaseni began her dancing career at age 5 under Girija Murali in Kolkata when her mother, actress Soma Dey, put her in a class. "You know the fascination Bengalis have for the arts. Every child is sent to learn some art form, including Rabindra Sangeet," she smiles.

Her quest to be a performer brought her to Chennai after she attended a Kuchipudi workshop in Kolkata. She underwent rigorous gurukul training in the Kuchipudi academy and then decided she needed to spread her wings and learn more.

She took up freelance journalism to sustain herself in the city, never giving up on her dream of being a dancer. She would keep herself updated by attending workshops and lec-dems. The big break came when she joined the Masters course in Bharatanatyam at Madras University (which she later cleared with flying colours).

Her guest faculty, Bharatanatyam exponent Lakshmi Ramaswamy, seems to have walked straight into her heart. "The minute I saw the way she conducted herself and the class, I knew I had found my guru," says Jagyaseni with gusto.

The guru also found that she had spotted the right talent and a performer with what she calls ‘passion to learn Bharatanatyam and commitment to stick to the art."

At first, Lakshmi merely asked Jagayaseni to 'open the door’ (physically) of her dance school, Sri Mudralaya, Academy for Bharatanatyam, to let the students in and wait for the teacher to take over. This act opened several doors for the young dancer.

She slowly groomed herself to become almost a gurukul student for Lakshmi, as lives near her house and the dance school. "I have taken up a full-time job - I am the assistant manger, communications, with AIM for Seva trust. The rest of my time is taken up with dance practice and attending programmes with my guru," says Jagyaseni.

"My guru gives me everything - she teaches me, gives me food and unlimited care. I have no way of repaying her for all this except by being sincere in my practice and performance," she says with great feeling.

Her first solo performance was in January 2016 during the Chennai Margazhi fest. There has been no looking back after that, says this graded artiste of Doordarshan.

She reached another milestone when she performed at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 2017.

Now she has been selected to perform in Nalli’s Adi Natya Vizha, organised by Brahma Gana Sabha. She wanted to do it but was strapped for funds. That’s when a friend in office suggested she take the crowdfunding route.

"I approached Milap, who have made a name for themselves in the area of crowdfunding. I campaigned hard and was amazed at the response I got through them for my effort. Now I am confident of being able to pay my supporting artistes," she says.

The thinking artiste that she is, she would some day like to do her bit for struggling dancers and ensure that they are compensated for the time and effort they put in to stage a performance. Given her grit and tenacity, it would not be surprising if she achieves what her heart is set on.


Jagyaseni Chatterjee chose the crowdfunding site Milaap to support her Adi Vizha dance recital that is to take place at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium in Alwarpet on 21 July.

"I worked hard to reach as many people as possible through social media," says the Bharatanatyam dancer, who started with a beautiful appeal on the Milaap site.

She was able to raise funds ranging from Rs 101 to Rs 3,000 and $25 to a $ 100! She has 34 contributors so far. She had set a goal of Rs 60,000 and has managed to raise Rs 56,676. All the details can be found transparently on the Milaap site along with Jagyaseni’s latest activities in preparing for the performance.