Maharashtra has been one of most culturally rich states in the country,producing stalwarts and pushing boundaries in art,theatre,music,literature and film. Bhavgeet is one such contribution to the arts. The light classical music form is a blend of poetry and music,and a great concert is one in which the singer knows the lyrics well enough to improvise and stress on certain words and sentences to make the poem come alive.
Today,the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) celebrates the genre,with a concert that tracks 80 years of its existence. Renowned musicians Suresh Wadkar,Arun Date,Anuradha Marathe,Dhanajay Mhaskar and Saee Tembhekar will recreate the magic of the songs that were once only available on HMV gramophone records in the 30s and also perform present day compositions.
Wadkar grew up listening to bhavgeet. Performances by Gajananrao Watwe,the artiste who is credited for bringing the genre into the mainstream in the 30s,were attended by thousands of people until the 70s. Though Wadkar did not catch him live,he remembers watching these performances on TV and hearing them on the radio. I might have performed over 25,000 songs through my career,but I will never write a bhavgeet. The writing needs to be beautiful for a bhavgeet to sound good. Its all about how you express words,as opposed to how the music sounds. Its not like todays film music where people insert words just so that a song sounds good.
Mainstream Hindi film music singers have also dabbled with the form. Lata Mangeshkar,Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi were fans of the genre,which mostly has themes on love and longing. Wadkar says,Bhavgeet is a lot like ghazals,but is not written as couplets. It is one of those forms of music where you can see people hanging on to every word they sing. On stage,when a singer delivers a particular turn of phrase,you can actually feel like you are reaching into someones being with your words. It is beautiful.