Kalidas Festival 2011

Parasailing at Ramtek
Tarique Parasailing

After many years Tarique and I  attended  Kalidas Festival this year and not just for our love of music. For the first time, Arayan Wachan (literally translates to watching the jungles) and Parasailing were organized as a part of the festival at Ramtek on 28th February (about 40kms from Nagpur) by Amol Khante of CAC Allrounder. Tarique and I couldn’t have been happier. Three things we love, music, adventure and jungles and an opportunity to explore them together all gave us the push we needed to drop all work on two weekends and become adrenalin junkies.

Bird Watching and Jungle watching was enjoyable in itself but what came as a huge bonus was discovering a Grey headed fish eagle at Mogarkasa. Perhaps a juvenile in search of a new territory (the GHFE was seen again at the same spot 2 weeks later).

Grey Headed Fishing Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), spotted at Mogarkasa.
Grey Headed Fishing Eagle

As if the high of spotting birds was not enough, we decided to push ourselves further and decided to parasail. And what fun it was. After almost 20 years both of us got a chance to go up in the sky and the thrill was unbeatable. Promising ourselves more of it, we returned home.

The week was hectic and we worked long and hard hours and missed all the musical evenings of Kalidas Festival till it was Sunday again. On Sunday, 7th March, thanks to Sameer Naphde of Nirzar we got the chance to attend what was the pinnacle of Kalidas festival – An evening with Padmashree Smt. Shubha Mudgal. She presented Koshish- a musical crossover, her new venture of mixing Jazz with Indian Classical music which was a treat to watch and listen to. Shubhaji sang all her popular numbers but for me the biggest attractions were the two unreleased songs she sang (one written by Alok Shrivastav, titled “O-re bawari” and the other by Gulzar Saheb titled “Shabnam”)

Her effortless singing and mesmerizing voice sent shivers down my spine. I and Tarique held hands as she sang this romantic nazm by Gulzar. Set on Jazz; she took poetry to a level so high that only music could reach it. She made poetry look more beautiful than itself, her singing brought poetry to life, and her music and Gulzar saheb’s poetry became soul mates.

Shubha ji's photo by Nitin Joshi

कल की रात गिरी थी शबनम
हौले हौले कलियों के बंद होठों पर
बरसी थी शबनम
फूलों के रुखसारों से रुखसार मिला कर
नीली रात की चुनरी के साये में, शबनम
परियों के अफसानों के पर खोल रही थी
दिल की मध्यम मध्यम हलचल में जैसे
दो रूहें तैर रहीं थीं
जैसे अपने नाज़ुक पंखों पर
आकाश को तोल रही हों
कल की रात बड़ी उजली थी
कल की रात उजले थे सपने
कल की रात तेरे संग गुज़री

My prized possession

I was lucky to meet Subhaji before the concert and so awestruck was I that I could not even tell her that I have been her fan for a long long time and have all her albums (all but one -“Ali more angana” It’s under litigation I learnt) But she was gracious and kind enough to sign two album covers for me.

Subhaji’s  awesome Koshish team included Dr. Aneesh Pradhan,  Mr. Sudheer Nayak,  Mr. Pratap Rath, and the Jazz musicians Mr. Joaquim Dias, Mr.Benoni Soans,  Mr. Berry D’Silva and our own Nitin Joshi. It was lovely to meet Nitin after a long time.

Kalildas Festival – Girija Devi

It was absolutely divine listening to this 76 year old lady sing and make audience crave for more. “I am learning for the past seventy years, I can sing at least for 70 hours” (sattar saal ka riaz hai, sattar ghante to ga hi sakti hoon) she replies to the shouts of “aur sunaiye” “aur sunaiye” from audience.

Ably accompanied by Anuradha pal, the lady tabla player who accompanied Ustad Shahid Parvez, Gaan-tapswini Girija Devi ji started the concert with Rag Jog, going into aalap’s that floored the audience. In between the performance she shared her knowledge and belief’s with the audience – Laya maya hai jo har kalakar ko uksati hai aur main bhee is se baach nahi paati hoon, main bhee taan leti hoon aur tab main solah saal ki bacchi ban jaati hoon“.

She enthralled the audience by rendition of tappa ”miyan nazar nahi aanda way“ followed by a thumri set in mishra Desh ”more saiyan bulawe aadhi raat.

Girija Devi has spent many years in researching Thumri and it shows every time she performs one. Coupled with good lyrics Thumari sounds more interesting and it is like a dream come true when swar gets suitable words she told the eager audience.

Thumri followed kajri which discribed purush birah in sawan instead of the traditional stree birah – Ghir aaye kaari badriya, radhe bin laage na mora jiya“

On audience requests she sung a chaiti , a jhoola and a hori and ended her performance with a thumari bhajan composed in Bhairwi

Earlier back stage, when i took her photo, she said, ”kheench rahi ho to bhejna zaroor“ and she autographed on one of her CDs which I was carrying. One of her deciples gave me her calcutta address to which I am sending the prints of the concert photographs.

Kalidas Festival Sitar- Ustad Shahid Parvez accompanied by Anuradha Pal on Tabla

I get goose pimples whenever i see Sitar being performed on stage by the maestro. This was my second time – fifteen years back I heard Pandit Ravi Shankar and yesterday it was Ustad Shahid Parvej.

Ustad ji can make a string instrument sing. My ears are still ringing with the musical notes of the aalap he played in Rag Bageshree teasing the second string with the nail of his little finger he made sitar sound more musical than itself.

The Jod and jhala was accompanied by the wondrous tabla player Anurdha Pal – India’s only woman performing tabla artist and disciple of Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Husain. Her playfulness with the accompanying sitarist was very reminiscent of Ustad Alla Rakha’s and Ustad Zakir husain’s, rising above the role of just an accompanying tabla player she struck balance between the accompaniment and showed her mastery with ease.

The surprise package of the concert was when Ustad ji took break from traditional rag playing and started striking the stings of sitar to “mohe panghat pe nandlal ched gayo re”. It took audience a while to realise it and then everyone gasped when he made the sitar sing the song.

Kalidas Festival – Bharatnatyam by Priyadarshini Govind

One of the most enthralling moments of my life was to see the noted Bharatnatyam danseuse Priyadarshini Govind perform so naturally to vatsalya rasa, playing mother kaushalya on Tulsidas’s “Thumak Chalt Ram Chandra”. This was one of the best rendition of the piece I have seen.

Her traditional varnam was based on Natraja Vandanam in which she performed portraying Goddess Parvati appeasing her lord and her love, Lord Shiva. She longs to meet him and unite with him in love. Shiv is Moksha for her. So beautiful was the performance that the danseuse herself was in a trance like state transporting the audience to a surreal state.

She is simply fabulous while perofming abhinaya. In another piece based on the marathi poetry “Rusli Radha Rusla Madhav Rusle Gokil sare” Her precision in footwork and poise in the first piece were as striking as her abhinaya, or dramatizations, in the Marathi composition, which was based on an encounter between Radha and Krishna. The piece shows Radha’s anger at finding her lover, Krishna, in the company of other women — and his attempts to reach out and pacify her. The opening, she said, in her introduction, is fixed but the end of the performance is always spontaneous, a surprise for the audience, musicians and the dancer herself as she decides at the last moment what the ending of the performance will be. The ending is different each evening the dance is performed. Accompanied by sour stirring vocals, voilin, natavangam and mridangam the audience reacted with her every bhav – the happiness of love, the sorrow of radha, the pain of gokul on seeing both the lovers angry with each other and finally the joyous union of the two love lorn.

She also performed on a piece from Kalidas’s Kumarsambhavam where manmath, the lord of love (Kamdev), enters forest with Rati and performs his duty, shoots his love arrow towards a meditating shiva fully knowing that will be his end.

Her last piece were traditional Tillana and the performance ended with Vande Mataram – a tribute not only to our beautiful and bountiful country but to the mother earth herself.