In the softening light of the winter dusk, the 63rd Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, considered one of India’s most prestigious classical music events, commenced at the New English School ground in Ramanbaug on Thursday. As every year, the fest saw a massive turnout, with people —ready with mats and bedsheets—sprawled on the ground.
The evening began with the performance of the country’s youngest shehnai and sundri player, Namrata Gaikwad, a fifth generation shehnai artiste. Choosing to begin the evening with Hindustani Raag Madhuvanti, Gaikwad showed her prowess over the musical instrument usually dominated by male artistes. The raag, which depicts the sringaar rasa, used to express the love of an individual towards his or her beloved, was well received by the audience.
Next on stage were artistes, Savani Kulkarni and Shilpa Puntambekar, both great grand daughters of the legendary vocalist Bhaskarbua Bakhale. Starting a bandish in the melodious Raag Multani belonging to the Thodi thaat, the duo soon moved to the popular evening Indian raag Marwa, leaving the audience spellbound. Coinciding with the performance of the two artistes was the 100th anniversary of Bakhle’s musical Sangeet Swayamwar. To commemorate the occasion, on a special audience request, the duo sang a couple of paras from the musical’s Natyageet ‘Ekla Nayanala’ that was met with a loud applause.
Next up was senior artiste of the Kirana gharana, Pt. Vishwanath,who presented to the audience a shuffle of bhajans,thumri and bandishes. Starting off with a bandish in Raag Marwa. He soon moved from the core classical music raag to render a thumri, ‘Laagi Re Maanwa Me Chot’ with equal finesse. However it was his Hindi Bhajan, Sadho Hari Bin Jag Andhyaara, that struck a chord with the audience.
The second last act of the day was a collaborative performance between flautist Rupak Kulkarni, a disciple of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and violinist Pravin Sheolikar, grandson of Rambhau Sheolikar. The two chose to perform the late evening Raag Jog belonging to the Khamaj thaat. After the fast paced jugalbandi came an abhang, Maaze Maher Pandhari, sung by the late Pt. Bhimsen Joshi whose instrumental version performed by the two artistes had audiences asking for more.
The best was saved for the last as acclaimed vocalists, brothers Pt.Rajan and Pt.Sajan Mishra, renowned singers of the khayal style of Indian classical music, took to the stage amidst a thundering applause. The Padmabhushan awardees accompanied by harmonium Dr Arvind Thatte and tabla player Pt. Arvind Kumar Azad chose a bandish, E Baare Saiyyain Raag Nand to begin their performance that brought the evening to a harmonious end.