Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pta. Padmaja Phenani Joglekar in Guwahati: Part (1/2)

Being in the North East, in the service of Chabiwala Bank has its own advantages. Wish our people clamouring for change of posting realised that. This is the only domain of the country where bank officials can get to know all CMs and Guv’nors. The biggest boon nacheez and Missus can count is getting to know personally, some of the top ranking Musicians of the country, who, naturally, are Maharashtrians, ha, ha, ha.. Where else could we have sat in the front rows of the diminutive Guwahati auditoria, at a hand-shaking distance from the artiste, and savoured those swaras and taans as they emanate from the very well-springs…, finally to stride into the green room with the Assamese organisers, and startling the artiste with admiration expressed in chaste Marathi…Only a month back we wrote about a tete-a-tete with Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande-how unassuming she was…आणि त्यांने घडवून आणलेले षडजाच्या  विराट स्वरूपाचे ते दर्शन…

This time our PR man Shyamal delivered a plain and limp envelope, which we opened, and jumped in our chair. It was a commemorative Light Music Recital under the auspices of good old Akashvani, the main artiste being none else than Padmashree Sau. Padmaja Joglekar! Boyyyy..was Missus enchanted to see that card when we returned home as usual at 10 PM…!

As a couple we von ‘Bailiffs had always been fascinated with that bright, shining persona, who, as common knowledge goes, is a part of , so to say, Mangeshkar gharana. We’re always intrigued by the low profile she seeks and manages to maintain at such musical heights- that aloofness certainly has the merit of restricting brand-dilution.…

Just look at these early Sahyadri videos of two of today’s top Marathi divas, and see or yourself the edge Padmajatai displayed, which she retains, we’ll boldly assert..धुंद मंद ही अशीच .

Missus in particular always tunes in to those music samarohs on Marathi channels, and if she even spies Padmajatai in the audience, her day is made! So…, scarcely did we imagine that we’d see the grand personality ru-ba-ru, hearing her first hand, possibly inviting the kind and unassuming artiste home for a plate of poha-jalebis of Indori descent..

Fond as they are of music, and also not meanly gifted, our Assamese friends are unaware of reputations on the sub-continent. On the Invitation Card, Padmajatai was billed at the end of the programme which was to commence at 7.00 PM. The first two artistes, though very competent, were relatively junior, and the prospect of having to wait for Padmajatai’s performance till 10.00 was daunting. After she met the organisers, the artiste’s pre-eminence perhaps dawned on them, and she was ushered in first. In Assam, the only source of knowledge on artistes is Hindi filmdom, and therefore they’ll accord recognition to Pta. Arti Ankalikar or Pta. Kishori Amonkar or Bade Ghulam Ali Khan for that matter. As Padmajatai would enlighten us later, the unfortunate tendency to treat Bollywood presence as the touch-stone of eminence is universal. That’s what makes the artistes visible, and perhaps bestows market value on them…Market-cap, he, he, he…

But this ignorance of our audiences was what created that huge roller-coaster on the Brahmaputra, just across the venue, Rabindra Bhavan that evening…Padmajatai sang her popular numbers that evening, Dive Laagle, Runu-zunu, and Hasra lajra shravan aala. The audience reaction had to be seen to be believed थक्कच झाले म्हणायचे !… There was a huge round of applause at every nook and turn of the songs. You have, of course, heard them. The crown of course went to Runu-zunu…. 

A constellation of factors had coalesced in lucky happenstance, raising the evening to its heights. The occasion perhaps imbued the accompanists with an astonishing sense of anticipation. The ensemble had done only 2 rehearsals with the artiste on the previous day, after she landed in Guwahati after a back breaking flight, but they, in particular the flautist, accompanied as if they were her regulars. The tabalchi was decent and restrained, notwithstanding his tabla skills and did not attempt a ‘Zakir’. Without being familiar with these songs, which are household tunes in Maharashtra, he performed the tihais and paltas faithful to the original, at the appointed places. The stage vibes were also quite interesting, and were sort of ‘inverted’. Normally you’ll see the accompanist egging on the artiste, the way Pt. Walwalkar cheered Pt. Bhimsen…Here it was the other way round. So great was Padmatai’s relief at the smooth sailing, that she repeated and repeated her startled ‘’Kya baat hai..?’’ charging up the accompanists in a virtuous cycle…

Wish one had taken down the names of the accompanists. The flautist was a Rabha, though. Something to be said for people employed with the Public Sector- a basic minimum standard of excellence can always be expected- be it an Air India or a BSNL…

After the recital, the Who’s Who of the Assam Music world made a beeline for the back-stage, mumbling words Tai could barely comprehend. Everyone was there, save Bhupenda ! Of course Padmaja did not expect to find a dardi ghati jodpe there, and we chatted for a while about Missus’s gharana and of course her own. We were rewarded with her well-known CD  " मराठीतील अनमोल काव्यरचना".

The rest is History. Missus with some trepidation invited Padmajatai for breakfast at garibkhana next morning, and after doing a little arithmetic about travel time and ETD of Mumbai flight, she graciously agreed!

Ahem…seems we have exhausted the Missus-imposed word limit of a 1,000 words per post, and the substance of the Communion, including the critiquing part,  remains. We’ll meet on the other side, and to whet the appetite of that fictional character, the ‘Reader’ of IK, let’s reveal that the first thing Tai did was squat in our Devghar, intoning “अशक्य ही शक्य करतील स्वामी”, that is the  “ स्वामी समर्थ तारक मंत्र”(click to hear her @ 1, Trinayan Path).

उपमा: question was: how does one describe the audience reaction seen on the evening of 23rd July: response appreciated by Padmajatai: a blind friend  receives gift of Vision and surgeons get the bright idea that she be brought face to face with Niagara Falls for her first deedar-e-qudrat, as her bandages are removed…! What shall be her reaction...when she beholds the Niagara as the first brush with vision...?



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