January 29, 2010


I helped my aunt Yashodhara buy a this painting from budding artist Konda Srinivasa Rao.

I helped budding artist Konda Srinivasa Rao sell this painting to my aunt Yashodhara.

I feel good for both.

January 17, 2010

57th Sawai Gandharva Music Festival 2009, Pune, India

As I said on Facebook, in a world where there is so much mediocrity, it is great to witness the excellence that Sawai Gandharva has always stood for. It restores one's faith in life.

This is the reason I like to travel to Pune to attend this festival; apart from the music itself, of course.

As I took my seat on Day 1, I felt a certain peace and calm envelope me. Just to be there, the familiar shamianas, the thousands of music lovers, the CD shops and food stalls behind, and the best of the best Hindustani classical musicians singing for us, ah…bliss! To see and hear Anand Deshpande, the very efficient and no-nonsense compere was reassuring. Things had not changed.

Day 1 started with a recorded message from Bhimsen Joshi, after which Pramod Gaekwad played the shahnai, establishing a festive ambience. The highlight of the day was Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya on Santoor, ably accompanied by Tarun Banerjee (not sure I got the name right) on the tabla. They were a fantastic combination, and their superlative performance lifted the audience to ecstatic heights, and received a standing ovation. He ended with a lilting Pahadi dhun, which made one want to dance! Devaki Pandit was good too, and sang Raag Bhim Palasi and Raag Amruth Varshini. The last to sing was our own Pandit Jasraj (with a very simply dressed and docile Durga sitting behind him!). He began with the familiar “Sakala ban gagan pawan…” However, I had to leave because it was quite late.

Day 2, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia gave an enjoyable performance, his bansuri accompanied by tabla and mridangam whiz kids who drummed magic into our ears! At one point, it seemed like the flute was the accompanying instrument, rather than the other way round! The day ended with my favourite Malini ‘Tai’ Rajurkar. She was simple, as usual, no frills…sang accompanied only by tabla and harmonium, and rendered the raagas with a purity that I feel is rare. Earlier, Shrinivas Joshi (Bhimsen Joshi’s son) sang. An IIT-ian, Shrinivas looks young and boyish, and is carrying the responsibility of organising Sawai Gandharva year after year ever since his father‘s illness. His singing is no comparison with the Senior Joshi; he sang one khyal with aalap-taan, etc., and then sang some bandishes and bhajans. We were introduced to his cute little son, about 6-7 years old, who sang a little along with him!

One of the things that I feel touched about Sawai is this…you have the old, established musicans in front, and behind them are the youngsters---the shishyas---usually with the tanpuras and fresh eager young voices; the baton will be passed on one day, but the musical journey is long and very exacting. One day, the shishyas will be singing sitting in front, and only when they have proved themselves at many other concerts will they reach Pune and the Sawai stage. This is what makes Sawai special. This is what makes Sawai sacred.

On day 3, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar’s performance was no doubt the most inspiring. Earlier, the charming Samhita Nandi from Kolkata sang Raag Bhagyashree very melodiously indeed. She is surely a musician to watch out for.

Day 4 had some emotional moments. Towards the end of the morning session, when Girija Devi from Banaras Gharana (see photo below) was singing, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi came in his car to listen to her. There was a hush in the audience…it was an overwhelming moment indeed. She got up and went to meet him, and came back in tears…she apparently told him that his place was on the stage and not in the car, and that she prayed that he would be disease-free and would sing again. Many a person in the audience had tears in their eyes. Even as she was overcome by emotion, we were treated to some inspired thumris, dadras and kajris. The other artiste who was a huge hit was Ustad Shahid Pervez…the audience kept asking for more! Among the tabla players who stole people’s hearts through the festival were Ramdas Palsule, Vijay Ghate and Tarun Banerjee.

The evening session had two greats---Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande and Dr Prabha Atre. Deshpande trained under greats such as Kumar Gandharva and Bhimsen Joshi. As people asked for more, he sang one of Kumar Gandharva’s Nirgun bhajans, and what a wonderful rendition it was! What I liked about Dr Prabha Atre was that she gave her shishyas a very fair chance to sing along with her---and they got to sing quite a few taans as well. There was also a Bharatnatyam performance by Mallika Sarabhai and her son Rewanta Sarabhai. They were very good.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi made another appearance, this time in a wheel chair on stage, along with his contemporary Pandit Ram Narayan (Saarangi). Pandit Ram Narayan spoke about Joshi and Joshi also spoke one sentence in Marathi. It was sad to see Joshi, the maestro known for a thousand expressions, with just one expression on his face; perhaps he had had a paralytic stroke. But who knows, some miracle could happen, and he just might sing again, just as Pandit Firoze Dastur had, when I went last time. Even as the music went on, things were happening behind the shamianas. The picture above (look at Bismillah Khan!) is one of the photos at the photo exhibition of two greats who passed away during 2009---Gangubai Hangal and Pandit Firoze Dastur; the latter surprised audiences in 2006 by suddenly singing Bhairavi along with the shishyas of Joshi (I have a very amateur video of this moment; if anyone is interested I could send it by email). The CD shops alongside did brisk business; there were thousands of titles, and most were on sale.

Apart from this there were, during the morning, two activities, “Antarang”---a discussion with the artistes, and the other was the screening of documentary films on music. I did not attend any of these.

On my way back to Hyderabad, the chuk-chuk of Mumbai Express strangely sounded melodious... o-da-ni-ta-ni ta-ni-ta-ni... o-da-ni-ta-ni ta-ni-ta-ni... , and I said, "Wah! Kya baat hai!!"

Satyasheel Deshpande: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Dy1NpD7FZc

Tarun Bhattacharya: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IigfD86AcJQ
Shrinivas Joshi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2vpF08-UdE

January 14, 2010

Sawai Gandharva 2009 (January 2010) --- the Program

Thursday 7 Jan 2010: Sri Pramod Gaikwad (Shahnai); Sri Nagnath Wodeyar (vocal); Smt Devaki Pandit (vocal); Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya (Santoor) and Pandit Jasraj (vocal)

Friday 8 Jan 2010: Sri Rajendra Kandalgavkar (vocal); Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute); Sri Srinivas Joshi (vocal); Pandita Smt Malini Rajurkar (vocal)

Saturday 9 Jan 2010: Sri Chandrashekar Vajhe (vocal); Pandit Srikanth Deshpande (vocal); Pandit Bishwajit Rai Chaudhary (Sarod); Smt Samhita Nandi (vocal); Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar (vocal)

Sunday 10 Jan 2010 (morning): Pandit Raja Kale (vocal); Ustad Shahid Parvez (Sitar); Pandita Smt Girija Devi (vocal)

Sunday 10 January 2010 (evening): Ustad Raja Miyan (vocal); Pandit Ramnarayan and Sri Harsh Narayan (Saarangi); Pandit Satyasheel Deshpande (vocal); Smt Mallika Sarabhai (dance) and Dr Prabha Atre (vocal)

Artistes whose names are in mustard were very good; and those in green simply ROCKED! Some of course, are established musicians, some are new names...do please make a note of their names and listen to them on YouTube. Highlights, surprises and emotional moments in the next post.

Background to Pune trip for Sawai Gandharva 2009

It was when my daughter Malini declared that their annual ‘Hoopya trip’ (an adventure camp, off Pune) was from 7-11 Jan 2010 that I decided to go for the Sawai Gandharva music festival, which was scheduled for 7-10 Jan, one month late this year because of the swine flu scare. With Maloo not at home, I would feel less guilty going; besides, I had been a good girl through 2009 and had not done even one trip on my own!

As in 2006, I aked my school friend Vijayalakshmi to buy season tickets for me. She told me there was an announcement in the newspapers and radio in the last week of Dec 2009 that the tickets would be given on 1 Jan 2010, at three places…Ambewala (or is it Tambewala?), Alurkar music shop and one other place. My friend went to Ambewala (?) and stood in the queue at 4-30 in the morning for two hours and then got the tickets. The tickets costed Rs 1800 each, and four were given per person.

Will always be grateful to Vijayalakshmi for doing this for me. Only regret that I could not meet her in Pune because she was very busy (she’s a doctor).

Tara accompanied me and we stayed at Hotel Shreyas, Apte Road, about 10 minutes (by auto) from the venue---New English School, Ramanbaug. Non-AC double room costed Rs 1700 per day for bed and breakfast; food is typical Maharashtrian, their thali being very popular in the city. We discovered that some of the artistes were also put up at this hotel.

My earlier Sawai Gandharva posts of Dec 2006 are here and here.

January 12, 2010

Happy new year 2010!

I wish and pray that in 2010, a miracle happens, and there is an end to irrational governance that smothers and cripples ordinary people in a world run by idiots (mostly).

A picture for the new year. Simple as it is, any guesses what exactly this is?

Photo copyright: Sadhana Ramchander

January 05, 2010

Aall iz not well...

I went to see the much-talked about Three Idiots, looking forward to 2 hrs of entertainment. The first half is fun, and there are lots of funny moments...however, post-interval, I felt a headache coming, and, in the darkness of Prasad's multiplex, the same old irrationality that had been bothering me lately raised its head once again. I looked at Aamir Khan and thought, "Et tu...Aamir?"

I am very disappointed. Here's why:

- This film is neither an adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's book, nor is it Rajkumar Hirani's Munnabhai MBBS. It is a hotch potch.
- The storyline is inconsistent and weak, as though the script evolved as the film was shot. I felt as though a fun-loving film crew sat around a table, and as each one came up with a funny idea, everyone else guffawed and said, "Yes, yes...let's include this in the film."
- Characters are cliched, and serious issues trivialised and laughed at. And what is Aamir Khan supposed to be? God?
- The actors: Boman Irani, though brilliant, reminds one of Munnabhai's Mamu; Aamir Khan's body language makes him look amazingly young, but there are times when one wonders whether he is Akash (Dil chahta hai), Nikhumbh Sir (Taare Zameen Par), or Stan Laurel (Laurel and Hardy). However, I was most touched by the actor who plays the creative-and-frustrated genius who commits suicide. The actor who played Chatur is brilliant and Madhavan is good, as always.
- Caricaturing of Raju Rastogi's paralytic father and his stressed-out mother is just not funny, nor is taking the father to the hospital on a scooter.
- AND, what's with the delivery scene? Anyone wondering how to teach their children about how babies are born?...take them to Three Idiots. The reviews didn't talk about it, did they? I wonder why...
- Stories woven around the quest for excellence have been written by many writers and philosophers, including Richard Bach (Jonathan Livingston Seagull) and Antoine St Exupery (Little Prince). In this film too, Aamir gives the same message: "follow your heart, do what you love to do in life, and not what your parents force you to do, pursue learning and excellence." I have no problem with this, and I too have lived my life trying to do just this. "BUT", he adds in the last scene, "like me, become successful...keep your no. 1 rank even 10 years after you pass out; if you are passionate about what you do, you will always be better than the nerd who was no. 2."

What about plain, simple happiness? Couldn't the film have ended with Aamir becoming a fantastic teacher and not the mysterious Wangdu, the award-winning scientist/teacher who can decide the fate of Chatur, the no. 2-in-college?

Vidhu Vinod, Raju Hirani, and co. must be laughing their way to the bank, singing "Aall iz well, but who's the idiot?"

I suspect it is me.

Here is a link to Sagarika Ghose's review of this film. I agree with her on most aspects.

January 02, 2010

For sensibility in the new year...

This is a world where a few power-hungry and drunk-with-power people are at the steering wheel, doing what they wish and getting away with it again and again. I want to be optimistic and hope that some day, logic overpowers this nonsense, especially in the legislature and judiciary in India. Otherwise, we probably will see the likes of Kasab either become a top Hindi film hero, or a heavy-weight politician.

Fervently wishing for logic, reason and sensibility in 2010...Happy New Year!