Vol. 5 Num 856 Sat. October 21, 2006  

A family of artistes: Sujit, Munmun and Aporajita

Singer Sujit Mustafa, Kathak dancers Munmun Ahmed and Aporajita Mustafa are a close-knit family with a passion for their chosen art form. Dropping into The Daily Star office the other day, the couple Sujit and Munmun and their daughter Aporajita (a student of class four at Sunbeams School) were in high spirits as they described their recent -- and first performance as a family -- in Brisbane and Sydney, Australia.

Talking to the trio was an eye-opener as they talked about what makes them tick, their achievements and future goals. Excerpts:

The memorable visit to Australia
Aporajita: My trip to Australia was wonderful. What was remarkable was that rules are followed--for instance the traffic rules and systematic running of the polity. I also loved the scenery and the hospitable people In fact I was so much in love with Australia that I began to cry when it was time to leave.

Munmun: I had been to Australia previously for the Commonwealth People's Festival in Brisbane three or four years ago. That was organised by the government. This time the programme was organised by a private group of Bengali expats. The Kathak and Nazrul songs were appreciated by both the Indian and Bangladeshi audience.

I have been offered teaching assignments in UK and USA but we stay here because we love our country.

Sujit: When I travel overseas, I feel a pain. This feeling has its roots in my tendency to compare the situation of other countries with that of Bangladesh. We have the manpower in our country but we can't use it properly.

However, we took the decision to stay here. Our mission is to learn music and dance from better gurus and subsequently teach our students.

On the preference for their medium

Mummun: I love Kathak. In Kathak the dancer can interact with the audience and create spontaneous movements, circles and footwork. Other dancers usually perform composed items. Thus in Kathak one gets freedom and the ability to improvise.

Aporajita: I really go for the footwork, movements, circles and costume jewellery that go with Kathak.

Sujit: My forte is classical, modern and Nazrul songs. My passion is to sing, listen and learn songs. Indian classical music is different in the sense that it has a spiritual component. Ultimately what counts is that ultimately it is an expression of devotion. For me singing is a sort of prayer.

The high point in my life was the recent Notun Kuri competition on BTV where I attained the first prize in classical dance. I have also performed in various school productions. What's more, in Australia I was interviewed by Brisbane Radio. I would say that my biggest achievement is that I am already a well-known dancer.

Munmun: What gives me impetus is the love and admiration of my fans. I am a known face to even new entrants to my dance school, Rewaz Performers' School because many of them have seen my dance programme on BTV. I also draw pride from the fact that many of my students have attained recognition at the national level.

Sujit Mustafa: I'd like to talk about my failures first. My first modern Bengali cassette was released in Kolkata in 1994. In 1995 I released two cassettes of Nazrul songs. After that there have been no productions in the market. I think the basic reason is that I am too critical about myself.

However having said that, I think my contribution has been to teach voice culture in Bangladesh. In the course of my musical career, I discovered that we lack proper scientific voice training. Therefore I studied the western technique of such teaching. In my view nobody else is teaching this in the country.

I want to learn ballet; the pirouettes and circles of ballet appeal to me greatly.

Munmun: My plan is to do a dance ballet with the children from my school. When I die I hope that my students will continue my dance tradition.

Sujit: My plan is to sing better.

Munmun and Aporajita strike a Kathak stance (left), Sujit Mustafa practicing at home