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    Anoushka Shankar eager to expand horizons

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Monday, October 18, 2004
    At an age when most girls think only about dates and shades of lip gloss, Anoushka Shankar, daughter of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, has a cultural legacy to carry forward.

    Remarkably easy going, poised, shrewd and articulate, Anoushka, who has just been selected as one of TIME magazine''''s under-40 Asian heroines, says she''''s every bit capable of bearing the family torch while being her own person.

    Anoushka states quite firmly that after she is married she would not like to give up her sitar playing.

    "I''''d definitely have to think about this issue. I can''''t be the kind of mother who stays at home," Anoushka told IANS in an interview.

    Asked if there was someone she would like to marry, Anoushka said, "Possibly. But I''''m really not getting married right now."

    Excerpts from the interview:

    What prompted you to turn actress for Pamela Rooks' "Dance Like A Man"?

    Well, several things, really. It seemed like a lot of fun. The role was very simple. Though I had to learn the Bharatnatyam dancing for three months before I faced the camera. I had learnt Bharatnatyam until I was 13. Then for 12 years I lost practice.

    The acting felt comfortable. I deliberately didn't want the role or my first film to be big. I did it for the experience of it, and not to launch a career in acting. I quite liked the experience. And yes, acting is definitely one more option.

    Did you feel close to the role because of its classical overtones?

    Though I play the daughter of two classical artistes I didn't see any similarity between my life and my character. She certainly doesn't say the things I'd say. Dancing is what attracted me to "Dance Like A Man". I don't think films about the classical heritage are made in Indian cinema any more.

    Being a part of such an endeavor was really lovely. I knew director Pamela Rooks from before. I'm a close friend of her son. I also knew my co-star Shobana whom I've become close to. She's absolutely wonderful. My work was mostly with Samir Soni who was really helpful, discussing scenes beforehand. It was fun....

    I've been getting other acting offers. But I haven't been able to look at them seriously. The timings aren't working out. At the moment I'm booked for my concert tours until 2005. I'll be touring both with my dad and performing solo.

    Which concerts do you enjoy more - with dad or solo?

    They're both totally different experiences. Music with my father is obviously more incredible, so that takes the concerts to another level. We really bond well together on stage. When it's a solo performance I get to pull my own strings, go where I wish to go. And that's a wholly different experience.

    Are you trying to find out what you're good at besides playing the sitar?

    It's not a question of what I'm good at but what I enjoy doing. I'm a musician, but I'm also other things. If there're opportunities to learn and grow in avenues other than music, why not? Whether it's taking a language class, working with some charitable organization or acting...it's all about growing .

    You belong to that extinct group known as the female sitarist?

    I wouldn't say it's extinct. But it's rare. There're some wonderful female sitar players. Unfortunately, they end up getting married to become housewives even if they are fantastic musicians. They don't get to tour and make a name like men do as though by right, while the kids grow up with the mothers.

    Once I'm married I'd definitely have to think about this issue. I can't be the kind of mother who stays at home.

    Is there anyone whom you want to marry?

    Possibly. But I'm really not getting married right now, for all the reasons I just mentioned. If my father is a romantic at heart, so am I. But I'm also capable of getting all worked up landing myself in a realistic mess.

    How do you respond to your multi-cultural upbringing?

    It's hardly a problem for me. It's not like some big migration that happened in the later part of my life. I've been exposed to various cultures and places from childhood. Cultures shape you on an unconscious rather than a conscious level. I'm not sold on cultural habits and norms. But yes, a cultural identity is another thing.

    I'm a mix of all my influences. I am Indian. Look at my genealogy, my skin color.... But I haven't lived in India all my life. So I've a number of impressions within me. I don't think it's easy for any person to define herself that easily.

    So who am I? I am an Indian, no two ways about that. But my Indianness doesn't define my personality. I've a home in Delhi and in the US for the past 12 years. But two years ago we opened the Ravi Shankar Centre in Delhi. So we're living there now.

    Do you look after it personally?

    Well I'm not here that often. So I've people to take care of it while I'm gone. Right now as I speak to you, my parents are not here. I'm here taking care of the Centre.

    Do you see enough of your father?

    Quite a lot! I tour with him. For the past ten years I was part of every concert that he had. So yes I'm a very integral part of his shows. The last year has been different. I've taken a sabbatical from touring. I needed time off. So this year he's traveling without me, accompanied by students.

    A boring question. Is it easy being your father's daughter?

    It isn't boring. But it's as vague as asking me what culture I belong to. Really, no one can define oneself in such clear-cut terms. A father's presence is never all good or all bad. Whatever I've got in terms of international exposure comes from being my father's daughter. I've often been criticized that I'm known only because of who I am and not for my work.

    But you've your following now among the younger generation?

    I appreciate that. And yes, it does put its own pressures on me. At the moment I'm focusing on achieving my goals, and working towards things I want to do. My long-time plan definitely includes exposing newer people to our music.

    I've definitely noticed that a lot of younger people who may not listen to our music otherwise, listen to me because they identify with me.

    Do you like carrying your father's legacy forward?

    I don't see it as my father's legacy. It's music that has passed on to me just as it was passed on to him. Even if I was to play the sitar my whole life why must it be my father's legacy? Why can't it be mine? I'd like to grow in other ways as well. Growth to me is wide and deep. I'd like to grow deep into my music. But I'd also want to expand my horizons in other ways. There're so many other things I want to do.

    Children of other classical artistes have a tough time since their performances are constantly compared with their fathers.

    Don't you think that happens to me? No one has a clue what I go through when I'm on stage. My whole life people will be comparing me with my father. I work so hard. And yet there're people who say I'm not good enough. But there is no point whining about it.

    All of us have to deal with comparisons all the time. It's very difficult to prove ourselves. However, we had the easiest start possible because of our parents. We're getting exceptional fame. So in many ways the family name is a great impetus. In other ways it sucks (laughs). However, the detractors don't make a difference. I'm doing nothing to prove anything to them.

    Are you satisfied with your life so far?

    There's much more to do. But I wouldn't change anything so far. Not a thing.


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