The Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav,considered one of Indias most prestigious classical music events,commenced in the dimming light of early winter dusk,and almost instantly turned the evening into an ethereal experience at the New English School ground in Ramanbaug.
A sea of audience was present to absorb it all. Families comprising three generations marked spots for themselves on the ground with mats and bedsheets,on which they remained for the ensuing six hours of musical bliss. The evening boasted of a celestial line-up and stellar performances by some of the stalwarts of classical music.
The festival began with shehnai maestro Madhukar Dhumal,who is known in the mainstream circles best for the shehnai theme he had lent to the Shah Rukh Khan-starer Swades (2004). He played some of his signature classical compositions. Next up was Rewa Natu,who presented to the audience a shuffle of bhajans,thumri and bandishes. Dr Ashwini Bhide Deshpande teamed up with Sanjeev Abhyankar to deliver their renditions peppered generously with astounding vocal improvisations.
The next duo on stage were sitar player Nishat Khan and tabla artiste Anindo Chatterjee. Khan belted a half-hour long solo,his fingers traversing playfully on the fret-board of his sitar. Eventually,Chatterjee was brought in amid a roar of applause and the masters played to the awestruck faces. Pandit Jasraj was saved for the end. The ageing vocalist climbed the stage slowly and carefully,but when he sang,his voice rang as fresh as ever.
Apart from the music,the festival offers a spread of food stalls,which feature on their menus a wide range of street food. Between the performances,the audience also flocked to the music stalls set up at the venue.