The world’s first female flying ace Amelia Earhart once said, ‘A woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune’. Regardless of fame and fortune, a woman who can create herself, her work, and her life in her own unique way is worthy of celebration and emulation. It is indeed a beautiful thing to see a woman carve her own space of femininity and creativity. At Jay Ho ! The Jay Kumar Show, we are constantly on the lookout for such inspirational women and recently, we had the privilege of knowing Jayati Banerjee, a real life wonder woman who juggles her corporate career with creativity in theater and her modest and contented family life. In an interview, she described her journey from Kolkata to Boston, from holding down a corporate job to starting a theater company and how she manages to do it all.
Jayati’s journey started in Kolkata where she did her schooling. Though she studied science, she found herself in Art, be it in literature or in music. She joined the corporate world and soon she found herself in Boston working for the corporate house John Hancock. Soon, the busyness of life overtook her and she ‘settled’ down, marrying and starting a family. However, she felt the lack of fulfillment gnawing away at her. Soon, she felt that this restlessness was an indication for her to give vent to her creative instinct in a community setting.
Just as a snowball heralds the start of an avalanche, Jayati’s snowball moment came when she wrote her first script for a satirical play which she directed and had her friends play various parts in it. At first, her motivation was to explore and cherish the fun of doing something collaborative. However, she soon realized that she loved the process of creating something original- be it the excitement of something impending, the struggle of giving shape to a story, or the fear of creative failure. As years passed by, Jayati saw that people appreciated and loved her work. So much so that she realized that she needed to be serious about the process and mechanics of writing a play. She spent time formally training and music and writing seriously. Meanwhile she continued to be active in community events.
It was during one such event that Jayati met Amitabha Lala who was also active in community space. Both had similar qualities- hard working, patient, and practical. Soon they started working together and as their collaborative process started harmonizing, they decided to take the creative partnership ahead formally. As they had some great scripts lined up, they decided to start a formal platform where they could present their creativity, collaborate with other organizations, and give back meaningful presentations to the community. Thus, in 2018, KrossRoads Performing Arts was born.
KrossRoads started with a bang with a play written and directed by Jayati Banerjee and helped by Nilay Mukherjee winning the Best Play Award in NABC Baltimore. From then, KrossRoads has done many online and stage productions and presented many meaningful and contemporary stories. Jayati attributes this success and finding the rewarding feeling from the fact that she doesn't take any shortcuts and fearlessly undergoes the creative process, viewing it as a journey of growth and learning.
When we asked her about her views on theater in the US and what other theater companies can learn from her experience, Jayati answered that she didn't have an opinion due to lack of exposure. However, she did mention one learning for all creative audiences- that creators need to be honest towards their audiences and that telling a story was more important rather than tweaking and twisting the creative process to make one’s personal opinions count.
Being appreciators of art, we were curious to know Jayati’s hot takes on various art forms, Bollywood, and Indian music. Although Jayati enjoys theater and movies both, she confesses her bias towards theater, since she enjoys the live performance aspect of it and experimenting with content and music in an intimate way. When we asked her about Bollywood, Jayati expressed her happiness at meaningful work being produced by Bollywood, especially those produced by women or by men treading the offbeat path. She is especially heartened by an increasing number of women telling women’s stories. Coming to music, Jayati enjoys semi classical songs whose melodies are hummable and memorable to remember. “ Anything you can keep in your memory, you will remember and sustain”.
Continuing on the theme of advice, we asked her for advice on art and life. She kept it simple saying, ‘ Be You and just believe in the process. Every struggle, every failure, every little win will take you closer to your vision. Listen to all criticism but have a bigger faith in yourself.’ She also emphasizes the role of courage in the very act of creation so one should be heartened by that.
Finally, we came to the inevitable question that all women face. How does she manage to find the time for her job, theater, family, and self? Clearly, as someone doing justice to all of them, she must have some secret sauce that all our female readers could use. She laughingly replied, “Keeping a real balance is an impossible task”.
Her way is to prioritize one thing over another depending on the situation and she also credits her family support in managing and achieving so much. Sometimes when she is working round the clock for the office or for theater shows, her family picks up the plate so she can utilize her limited time well. At one point, she mentioned how she felt her identity and health were going for a toss, so she participated in 2 marathons to regain her fitness and feel better about herself.
Sometimes, after long stretches of shows, she pulls back to her familiar corner of being with her family. “We women want it all” she says and she went on to mention how all of these facets of her life exist together , even if they are in an imperfect balance and “I have learned to lower my expectations”. An advice we can all readily agree with.
On this philosophical note, Jayati concluded her interview with us and we can only say Jay Ho ! to this amazing woman and artist who has inspired us so much and has given so much aspiration and advice for life. Stay tuned to Jay Ho ! The Jay Kumar Show to meet and know more such amazing people.
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