THE ESSENTIAL MINU BAKSHI
Minu Bakshi is a multifaceted and versatile individual. A singer with years of Hindustani classical musical training, a professor of Spanish language at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, an accredited Spanish language interpreter for the Indian Government, a well known Poet of Urdu poetry, and The Chairperson of the NGO, Savera (a society for the uplifting of underprivileged women and children) as well as the Chairperson of the UK Asian Film Festival, London. These are some of the activities for which Minu Bakshi is known and recognized.
Minu did her schooling at St. Thomas School, Delhi, and then B. Sc. from Miranda House, Delhi University at which point she realized her real love lay in languages at which she was naturally gifted. So began her journey in the world of Spanish language and she studied it for six years completing her M. A and M. Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University later proceeding to Spain to further enhance her knowledge in the language at the ‘Universidad Complutense de Madrid’. Her expertise is in the art of interpretation and she has been working as an interpreter for the President and the Prime Minister of India on various occasions for thirty or more years.
She has been teaching at the JNU for almost 40 years. Recently, she was conferred the “Order of Isabella la Catolica” by the Spanish Government for her services towards the promotion of Spain and its culture. This is the 2nd Highest Order given to a foreigner by the King of Spain. That she was gifted with an aureate voice was recognized when Minu was just a youngster. However, it was a concert by Begum Akhtar which was one of the defining moments of her life. She knew then that if there was anything she wanted, it was to sing. She became one of Begum Akhtar’s most talented and devoted acolytes. Following her assiduously from concert to concert Minu imbibed not only the fundamentals of Ghazal gayaki but also began to appreciate the nuances and beauty of Urdu and Urdu poetry. This was to have a huge impact on her later.
Ajay Chitnis, the MD of Tapasya Productions and a Documentary filmmaker is one of those lucky ones to have found his path. Having stayed in different parts of the country as a child, he had the privilege of being exposed to different cultures, customs, and languages. Like any other young aspiring man, he went for a good education- did his graduation in commerce, studied law and business management as higher studies. He even pursued CS and worked as a company secretary and quit it all to be where he actually belonged. His first tryst with his destiny was in the year 2000 when he produced and directed the music video for one of the most popular classical songs – Dumadam Mast Kalandar which was a successful project, followed by directing commercials for a diamond jewelry brand.
Someone who was enamored by filmmaking since childhood and by movie makers such as Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Yash Chopra, and Vijay Anand, Ajay made a difference and a little difficult choice- Documentary making. Documentaries are more of no entertainment, serious, non-fiction storytelling and you need to be creative enough to present those in the best possible entertaining manner. Finding the right audience, the right platform to showcase your work is another challenge for Documentaries.
Impressed by entrepreneurs who established business empires on their own, Ajay decided to dedicate a series of his Documentaries to these businessmen and businesswomen. Aired by leading business and news channels, his Documentaries have covered more than 70 personalities till now. Ajay also directed an education program on best B schools based out of Maharashtra state.
Never one for taking shortcuts Minu embarked on a rigorous program of classical music training initially from Ustad Ghulam Hussain Khan of the Rampur Gharana and then from Ustad Marghoob Hussain Khan of the Patiala Gharana.
Committed to the preservation of Punjabi culture Minu’s next and most highly successful endeavor was the Punjabi Wedding albums titled ” Lao Mehndiyan I & II”, launched by none other than Abida Parveen. This collection of traditional Punjabi folk wedding songs in a new avatar was released by Music Today, which has proven to be a best seller and is always in demand. The former was also nominated for the Best Punjabi Album in the ETC Music awards 2006.
A compendium of Punjabi folk music consisting of 8 Cds is Minu’s most ambitious project to date. Under the Times Music banner this collection entitled “Band Baja Punjab” has become a “must-have” for all lovers of Punjabi folk music worldwide. For this, she was felicitated with the “Achiever’s Award 2014” by the Global Punjabi Society for her efforts to preserve Punjabi Traditional and Folk Culture by the former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Her discography across various genres of music: folk, ghazal, pop, and Sufi shows her to be a singer of great talent and versatility. Possibly one of the most significant milestones in her career, and a recent one at that, is the flowering of her career as an Urdu Poet.
“Tishnagi: The Thirst” was Minu’s first book of Urdu poetry. A work that garnered her unstinting praise from connoisseurs of Urdu poetry and the most hardened critics as well. Among these were eminent personalities like Farooque Shaikh the prominent actor and Tv personality who said “There’s the fragrance of honesty in Minuji’s poetry, rather than the odor of effort, which is why it engrosses you quickly and stays with you longer.”
The well-known filmmaker Muzaffar Ali remarked at the Delhi launch of the book that “Minu Bakshi’s poetry has all the metaphors one finds in the classical Urdu ghazal, but with a striking balance between intensity and freshness almost always knocking innocently at the doors of mystic surrender.” It is no surprise that Tishnagi was awarded for its valuable contribution to Urdu Literature by Ilmi Majlis Bihar. It also received the “Jameel Mazhari Award” by the Bihar Urdu Academy and the“Aamir Khusro Award” by the Husn ara Trust Delhi.
The book “Tishnagi” was introduced to London audiences under the aegis of the prestigious Nehru Centre as well as the House of Lords. This well-publicized event resulted in a record “standing room only” turnout and a slew of events all over the city including interviews with leading TV channels such as the BBC and soirees at the houses of British nobility. “Mauj-e-Saraab”, her second book was released in November 2017 in Delhi by the veteran award-winning actor Shabana Azmi, who said: “Minu Bakshi’s poetry is ‘Fel