Written by Harsh Shukla
At the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata, a budding vocalist called Sandip Bhattacharjee was asked to receive the great sitar play, Ustad Raees Khan, at the airport and escort him. “Who are you? What do you do?” asked the Ustad, considered one of the greatest sitar performers of the era. “I sing, Khan saheb,” answered Bhattacharjee. Khan asked him to meet him that night and sing. “He was so impressed with my singing that he gave me Rs 1,000. I still have that note. After that, he came twice to ITC, and used to ask people, “Sandip jaan kahan par hai?”’ says Bhattacharjee, a vocalist of the Kirana gharana, and one of the performers at the 67th Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav in Pune.
At the event, Bhattacharjee, 39, held the crowd of almost 10,000 captive. Since his teenage, he has practised rigorously, but without compromising on studies. “I hold a graduate degree with first class. I used to practice for 12 to 14 hours under the guidance of my guru Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan and Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan at the ITC residential music academy. Sometimes, we used to practice the whole night, I still do, and I will continue till the last breath,” he says.
Bhattacharjee’s parents were interested in music, though they were not musicians. There was an environment of music in his house as his brother and sister used to sing. “My mother told me that, during my childhood, I used to catch a song pretty quickly. That’s how my journey began towards Indian classical music,” he says.
Today, as a teacher, Bhattacharjee interacts with a different generation of singers. “There is a lack of discipline and patience to learn in the younger generation today. I practised a single raag called Yaman for four years. We kept on singing only one sargam of raag Marwa until we could master it. Nowadays, students want to practice for two years and perform on stage. There is no medicine that you take it, and everything works. Real music needs a lot of dedication, love and sacrifice to master the art,” he says. He adds that there are many excellent gurus to train the younger generation. “If the younger generation will train hard and dedicate themselves to music, then the future is bright. The influence of classical music is back again in Bollywood. I hope it will continue in the future too,” he says.