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Mention mandolin and the latest anyone can relate it to is the film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, where Shah Rukh Khan was seen playing the instrument. However, a full-fledged concert or music programme surrounding the instrument has been unheard of. The reason: there are not more than 200 mandolin players in India. Thus, a festival like Mandofest 2017, featuring at least 50 mandolin players from different parts of the country, came as a rare treat for music lovers in the city.
Mandofest was organised at MIT Vishwashanti Gurukul in Loni on Sunday. Pradipto Sengupta, the brain behind the festival, is a native of Kolkata and has been residing in Mumbai for the 30 years now. Sengupta has worked with both legends, including RD Burman and Lakshmikant-Pyarelal, and new-age musicians like Ajay-Atul.
Talking about Mandofest, he said, “Mandolin, as an instrument, does not have a wide reach in India. So, those willing to learn it, don’t get much exposure because there are no classes available. In other countries, there are institutes dedicated to teaching mandolin. But here, I am afraid the instrument would die a slow death.” Pointing out at the great response to the festival, members of the Mandolin Lover’s Club in Pune aim to hold the festival in different parts of India, annually. Mandofest attracted players from places like Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Amravati, Solapur, Nashik, Satara, Mumbai, Nagpur, Indore, Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh), Guwahati (Assam), Bengaluru and Gujarat.
Sengupta, however, added that electronic instruments and digital interference have overshadowed mandolin in the current musical scenario “But, it is not dead. There are Hindi and Marathi movies that use mandolin. Mandolin is used for live performances too. Recording, however, has comparatively reduced. Through the festival, we aim to achieve more publicity for the instrument,” he said The members of the Mandolin Lover’s Club, formed by Anil Pendse in Pune, have also started a WhatsApp group, which provides regular updates to these members on workshops and also serves as a platform for them to stay in touch.
There are also plans of opening mandolin training centres across the country, said Sengupta. For now, he added, the club members are given exercises and they have to send me a recording every month, following which I give them suggestions. Dr Ghanashyam Borkar, a gynecologist, who attended a workshop Sengupta had conducted for the club, said, “If we look at music as a body, mandolin is the ghungroo. It might be small and delicate but it is not insignificant. Mandolin has given me a lot. Though I don’t play it now, I used to perform in bands and concerts when I was pursuing MBBS degree. It practically financed my studies. Whatever I am today, it is because of this instrument.”