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Entertaining, but not convincing

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The Economic Times, April 3, 1988

It is good to note that Bombay Doordarshan’s half-hour feature based on Hindustani music has come to stay. Telecast on the fourth Wednesday of every month, “Subaddha Sangeet”, as the feature is known, is designed to project young but deserving talent so as to expose them to the widest possible audience of lovers of traditional music.

“Vasantik,” the feature, telecast on March 23, was one such instance. As the title indicates, it was designed to present the ragas evoking the mood of the Spring and also to show how the lyrical content of the khayal compositions had a concordant relationship with the musical mood of the ragas.

The artistes featured were Asha Parasnis and Geeta Jawadekar, both of whom are understandably seeking to make the grade on the concert platform. Asha, who holds a doctorate in music, is a student of Prabha Atre, the noted vocalist and musical scholar. She also conducts a music school at Kalyan, in Thane district. Geeta, who comes from Karnataka, has been trained by many mentors, who include Panchakshari Matti Gatti (disciple of Pandit Mansoor), Padmavati Shaligram and Ratnakar Pai, all senior exponents of the Atrauli-Jaipur gharana of which the late maestro, Alladiya Khan is acknowledged as the pioneer.

In keeping with the familiar format, the feature began with a duet rendition of Bageshri in the drut khayal “Ritu Basant Tum Apni”. This is a time-honoured composition.

Then followed solo renditions, all set to fast tempo, from Geeta and Asha, who sang them by turns. Geeta’s fare comprised Kalavati (“Bolana Lagi Papihara”) and Tilang-Bahar (“Phuli banrai beli”), while Asha chose Basant (“Sakal bana Phule”) and Goud Malhar (“Koyali bolan lagi”). The programme rounded off with a duet in Malkauns (“Koyalia bole ambuva”) The artistes received instrumental support from Kashinath Mishra on the tabla, while Iqbal Hussain and Jayant Phadke wielded the sarangi and the harmonium, respectively.

Viewed as a performance, divested of its alleged thematic character, it provided enjoyable fare. As partners in a common endeavour, Asha and Geeta, although groomed in two different gharanas. —- a fine team spirit. They showed a good awareness of each other’s stylistic angularities and made a commendable effort to supplement and complement them. One did discern a greater degree of maturity and experience in Asha’s singing as a soloist, though.

Geeta, on the other hand, has a stentorian voice with a volatile quality. And she sand her pieces with a degree of vivacity and abandon. But her weakness for faster taan patterns showed her impetuosity which, if not eschewed in time, is apt to deteract from what might otherwise be an effective performance.

Now, coming to the thematic aspects of the programme. The concept of time-theory, which covers the Hindustani ragas in respect of their rendition in accordance with the hours of day and night and also the seasons of the year, is still being observed by most practioners of North Indian music. The year in India is conventionally divided into six natural seasons – Vasant (spring), Grishma (summer), Varsha (rainy season), Sharat (pre-autumn), Hemant (autumn) and Shishir (winter).

To the Indian mind these ritus (seasons) are symbolic of the whole gamut of human feeling and emotion – from anxiety and frustration to hope and fulfillment. Although, theoretically speaking, each ritu is designed to cover two months the transitional phases from one season to another make the raga-time association flexible.

Another important feature, which is also seen to be as flexible, is the concordance of the lyrical content of the compositions and the ragas to which they are set.

Mr Datta Malurkar, the veteran Marathi music columnist and critic, who compared the programme appeared, to have tried to stretch the flexibility of the concept to a point where it was difficult to agree with his view. In the first place, if the programme was really designed to be what its title indicated, he should not have tried to enlarge the duration of the Vasant Ritu to three months. Secondly, he seemed to lay greater emphasis on the compositional aspect rather than the melodic side of the chosen raga. Only the ragas Basant and Tilang Bahar could serve to justify the concordance of the respective melodies and their songs in point of the mood of the season.

Not that Mr Marulkar was unaware of the tricky elements inherent in his presentation. But all he did was to explain away some of these which frankly sounded rather unconvincing.


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