AFTER A gap of nearly eight months, Hindustani classical vocalist Aditya Modak drove to Bharda New High School near Mumbai’s Azad Maidan for his first outdoor performance since the Covid-19 lockdown. His performance rekindled the joy of being with his accompanists in a beautiful space. Modak was also nostalgic as he returned to the same venue where he took part in a music competition as an eight-year-old.
The first episode of the newly launched digital series featuring young Indian classical musicians and vocalists – IndianOil Now Hear Us – that started streaming on Saturday at 7 pm, presents this special concert shot at the heritage school. Accompanied by musicians Swapnil Bhise, Siddhesh Bicholkar and Akshar Vairagi, Modak presents his rendition of three ragas — Nat Kedar, Rageshree Bahar and Sohini.
“During this concert, I wanted to explore ragas that are not complex yet melodious. Both Nat Kedar and Rageshree Bahar are combinations of two different ragas each. This kind of combination was rare. I wanted to present ragas that you wouldn’t find on the internet easily,” Modak said.
The inaugural episode of ‘Now Hear Us’ also offers some glimpses into the musicians’ life as it shows Modak picking up his accompanists after leaving his Borivali home. As expected, they exchange notes about life under lockdown and Modak’s movie debut. In writer-director Chaitanya Tamhane’s internationally acclaimed sophomore outing The Disciple, Modak essays the role of its protagonist. The movie, which had its world premiere at Venice Film Festival in September, is about a dedicated young vocalist who might never achieve his guru’s excellence.
While the first episode of ‘Now Hear Us’ was shot through the day, the filming of the concert took about two hours. “In classical music, it is an extempore and depends a lot on the state of mind. You can’t mime it later or mix sound. Of course, it can’t match the experience of a live performance. But this is an effort to offer a kind of experience that goes beyond singing in front of a camera,” said Modak, who believes that this digital initiative might give artistes greater visibility.
The 32-year-old earlier took a conscious decision to refrain from doing “live sessions” for online platforms, after experimenting with it a few times in May, as he did not want to compromise on quality.
‘Now Hear Us’ was conceptualised with the idea of helping young classical musicians as performance venues were shut down. Devina Dutt, artistic director and founder of First Edition Arts, was approached by the oil company to co-curate this 12-part series – which uploads a new episode every second Saturday of the month.
“Though many have gone digital, we realised just putting up a classical programme online won’t do. We wanted to include a little bit of the musician’s process and their candid moments too,” she says.
At a time when access to public spaces is restricted, the series wants to engage with the cities that are home to these artistes. With the idea of giving a glimpse of the city’s architecture and living traditions, the episode featuring Shruti Vishwakarma (Hindustani vocal) will be filmed at Ma Hajiani Dargah in Worli while Priya Purushothaman (Hindustani vocal) will perform at Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla. The episodes featuring Rujuta Lad and Aditya Khandwe — both Hindustani vocalists — will be filmed at Girgaum’s Laxmi Baug. This century-old building has been a prominent venue for Hindustani classical music concerts. The series will also feature Abhishek Borkar (sarod), Brindha Manickvasakan (Carnatic vocal), Deepsankar Bhattacharjee (sitar), Pratik Shrivastava, Ramana Balachandhran, Rithwik Raja (Carnatic vocal), Shruthi Sagar (Carnatic flute), Smit Towari (sarod) and Vignesh Ishwar (Carnatic vocal).
After shooting for Now Hear Us, Modak is set to take the next step — perform in front of a live audience. His show is scheduled on January 15 at Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall.
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