When the vision in bright turquoise blue walked on to the stage, one was for
a moment reminded of the Lord Krishna. Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, the renowned
flautist, stilled the audience into an enchantment with his recital just as the
Lord did to the gopis, the flora and the fauna of Brindavan.
Sunita Buddhiraja elaborated on the effects of music on one's soul through an anecdote. Akbar asked Tansen, "You sing so well, who is your Guru?" Tansen replied "Swami Haridas." And took Akbar to Brindavan, warning the King not to ask his Guru to sing, but wait for him to sing on his own.
When Swami Haridas sang in the Brahma Muhurtam (4am to 6am) Akbar's eyes filled with tears of pure ecstasy. He said to Tansen, "Your Guru sings better than you," to which Tansen replied, "I sing for you, a man created by the Almighty, whereas my Guru sings for the Almighty alone. That's the difference."
"And Panditji plays into our hearts, where the Almighty resides " said Sunita aptly.
Of late the critiques of Hyderabad have found a way to criticise the maestros who come to the city to perform. "They play to the galleries," they say, giving the audience rapport that the musicians achieve a different connotation. After Sunita's explanation of Panditji's commitment to music, I was happy I belonged to the galleries. In fact all of us did on this evening, when the evening Raga Puriya Kalyan flowed through his flute and the music lovers of Hyderabad who came from far off distances of the city sat in reverential silence to let the notes fill their attentive ears.
The Ragas and Raginis (developments on the basic Raga) chosen according to the time of the day or night generate the correct emotion. There are 'sthayis' (notation) and rhythms of the basic raga. 'Alaap' is the structure and 'jor' is the rhythm. Panditji said, "I didn't create the basic raga. I played the Puriya Kalyan purely as a Puja, worshipping the creation itself."
And then he went on to play the next night raga, not revealing the name. He found this particular audience ardent music lovers - albeit slightly low in number (lack of adequate support for the organisers, perhaps) - and expected them to identify the nameless raga. As he played the first few notes, I delved into my music foundations of childhood lessons and the Sangeet Sarita programs of Vividh Bharathi.
It didn't take long for me to break into a broad grin of recognition. Wasn't 'Hamsa Dhwani' the first Hindusthani raga that Muthuswami Dikshitar used to compose Vatapi Ganapatim Bhajeham? And wasn't many a Hindi film song based on this raga? Isn't this what is meant by playing to the galleries, where the audience can identify and be one with the performer?
Then the requests started coming in. Play Vachaspati. Sankarabharanam. Pahadi. And even Siri Vennela. No, Siri Vennela is not a raga, it was the famous K Viswanath movie where Panditji played the flute to all songs. While appreciating the knowledge of us all for knowing so many Raga names, Panditji politely declined to play Siri Vennela pleading unpreparedness and went to conclude the recital with a dhun in Pahadi which popularised the album 'Call of the Valley', where he played along with Pandit ShivKumar Sharma. As we all know, later the Shiv-Hari duo composed music for most B R Chopra films.
When the Pahadi dhun, which literally had him dancing (and us, too), was over, we simply sat and looked at him in the expectation that he may give us yet another experience as divine. "When Lord Krishna played in Brindavan the gopis danced around him, but if you all come on to the stage and dance the police may object," he joked.
He had been playing non-stop for 150 minutes then. But he lovingly said, "Yes, I don't want to go either, but most of you must be hungry." We were, for more music from him. But the recital did end and the organizers honored him with a shawl, a momento and a Krishna statue, which he apparently cherished because I heard him asking the organizers to put it on the flight with his baggage carefully.
The Bhagyanagar Educational Socio-cultural Trust (BEST), competently managed by Tirumala Kameswara Rao and a host of other patrons, is a non-profit organization promoting peace and cultural integration. They run the show through memberships and sponsorships. And with this particular program people have become aware of the Trust's capabilities of really giving the BEST to us Hyderabadis.
The Satya Sai Nigamagamam, which has so far been used mostly for marriages, will
be their permanent venue. With a little more care taken to improve the acoustics,
the hall will definitely be as popular as Ravindra Bharathi. All the best - BEST!