Tuesday, October 23, 2012
That one boorish person in the audience!
Some of the things that happened at an event last week were so quintessentially Pune – both the good and the bad about this city were amply demonstrated right in one place.
The good part was that the programme was part of the on-going celebrations of Prabha Atre’s 80th birthday.
The format was one of my favourite kinds: a freewheeling interview with the doyenne and diva of the Kirana Gharana, by two knowledgeable and affable men: Shriniwas Joshi (Bhimsenji’s youngest son, a singer himself) and Vikas Kashalkar (a senior singer of the Gwalior Gharana).
The audience waited patiently over a 45 minute delay in starting, which had something to do with senior University people being delayed with something else, we were told. My usually favourite Puneri form of protest over delays didn’t take place: audiences simply begin to clap, till the curtain rises or someone gives us an adequate explanation about why we are sitting around twiddling our thumbs way past the official time of the programme. This time around, perhaps in deference to the occasion, people waited it out quietly.
The programme itself, once it did begin, was a delightful mix of probing questions, nuanced replies, sparkling verbal sallies and repartee on the part of both interviewers and the lady herself. The programme etched for us the singer’s body of work, her way of life, and the fact that at 80, Prabha Atre the person, the thinker, the performer, the teacher, is still soaring, like her beautiful voice. There was plenty of good music too, with three of her disciples singing from her repertoire of compositions.
Her interest and love for Carnatic music and how she incorporates elements from it or sings some south ragas was also brought out, with a pretty Hemavati that was performed. Fans remembered her very first LP record, in which her Kalavati gave us Hindustani classical listeners a whiff of the Carnatic style.
On the topic of music education, there was also talk about a full-fledged music university being opened in the future – which would have departments for so many genres, and even possibly a ‘how to be a good music listener’ course. After all, performers need informed audiences.
As the informative and enjoyable evening drew to a close, and there were moments of deeply felt sentiment – awe as well as affection – shared by us all, there came out of nowhere, a strident interruption. Without so much as a ‘by-your-leave’, a member of the audience virtually shouted out in Marathi, with as much delicacy and sensitivity to the occasion as a kanda-batata walla drawing attention to his maal: “Joshiji: I speak on behalf of us music lovers of this city. You are now the main organizer of the Sawai Gandharva Festival. Here is our request: Please DO NOT invite Carnatic musicians. We DON’T WANT Carnatic music.”
For a few seconds, everyone present, including the singer herself and her interviewers, and us in the audience, didn’t quite know how to process this bit of idiocy. Firstly, only in Pune will a person ‘request’ in this kind of haranguing voice! Secondly, only in Pune, will you find that one person with this degree of disregard for the occasion, and the misplaced confidence to simply blurt out ones demand in this manner.
One part of me wanted to turn around and frostily say to this gent in crisp Marathi: “Hello, who appointed you spokesperson for all of us Pune music lovers?” Another part of me wanted to simply say: “Ay, chupp!” But neither of these were options, and they would have just made matters worse.
It was Shriniwas Joshi who calmly took the mike, and with a gravitas way beyond his years, but with an ease that surely comes from belonging to the first family of the Kirana Gharana, delivered a stinging snub to the man. He said them in a quiet, most reasonable voice, but the words spoke volumes. Loosely translated, this is what he said: “For choosing this forum, this occasion and this way of conveying your opinion, I salute you. Aapka jawab nahi.”
Whether the thick-hided man realized that he had been a fool, and a parochial fool, on top of it, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a word of advise to people like him: the very format and atmosphere of the Sawai festival is such that you can saunter out when you want; so go eat wada pav when there’s a performance that you don’t enjoy. Simple. Zimble.