When she cleared her throat softly and hummed a jingle from an old advertisement of a soap, the audience seemed pleasantly surprised. Reminiscing her student days spent in a city that she finds hard to refer to as Mumbai, vocalist Bombay Jayashri shared some of her interesting experiences with an eager group at Saarang 2011, the cultural fest at IIT-Madras on Wednesday.

Whether it is about recording a jingle at a studio with writers providing lyrics in different languages for the same commercial, singing a film song for a composer, singing a Thyagaraja kriti, or an old Hindi film song, there is a lot of learning that each experience offers, said the singer. For instance, one learns how to use the mike carefully or to be sensitive to different languages.

Her belief that there is something to learn from every system, she said, came from her experience of learning under violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, a “liberal thinker”. Asked to recall a memorable moment of the tutelage she said: “Every day and class is one. The biggest lesson from him is that being a performing musician is only a very small aspect of being a music lover.”

Later, Ms. Jayashri's vivid account of recording ‘Vaseegara' for Harris Jayaraj had the audience in splits. From recalling her initial reluctance to her strategy of finding the pitch uncomfortable, the vocalist was at her candid best. “Later, I would keep hearing the song at tea shops and railway stations…and some people may have dropped by at my concert to see ‘What is the Vaseegara lady doing here, in traditional outfit'!”

Responding to a question on her collaboration with singer Shubha Mudgal, Ms. Jayashri said it was very interesting to exchange musical ideas. Demonstrating along with her students Keerthana Nath and Chitra Poornima, how shades of the same raga Mayamalavagowlai could evoke different emotions in Saint Thyagaraja's magnificent composition ‘Meru Samaana' and the old melancholic hindi song ‘Mohe bhool gaye sawariya', she said collaborations offered scope to reflect on different perspectives. The session concluded with a rendition of ‘Vaseegara'.

Gamut of issues

“Would you ever engage someone as a driver because he excels in writing poetry? Why then do you ask an actor like me if I will join politics?” actor Nasser said in response to a query from a student on when he would foray into politics.

The actor who insisted on giving a mike-less talk covered a gamut of issues pertaining to contemporary Indian cinema in his lecture that followed.

The interactive session was marked by questions and comments on broad aspects such as quality and budgets and some current challenges such as piracy.

The actor was an instant hit among the students with his ready wit.

To a question on the parameters on which quality of films should be judged, Mr. Nasser said: “Think of a film you really enjoyed watching. Think why you liked it, in terms of elements such as acting, camera, script, set and so on. Use them as benchmarks. Every time you watch a film, try and compare it with the standards you have set. If you think the film does not match your standards, reject it. Simply walk out.”

While film appreciation was part of school and college curricula in the West, the trend was yet to pick up in India, he observed.

He said “foolish films” cannot be stress relievers. “Please train your mind to appreciate good films and that can also be very relaxing… Unless you demand quality, we will not deliver.”

“How do you manage when you have to act with stalwarts?” was another question.

Recalling his ‘Devar Magan' experience of acting with Sivaji Ganesan, he said: “All my excitement is before I step on to the shooting floor and after I leave the spot. Of course I was very thrilled and overwhelmed, but when I am with such stalwarts at the spot, we are colleagues.”

On piracy, the actor said he believed that quality had to be used to counter it. “We need to make films that will draw viewers to the theatres no matter what.”

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