Probably the second biggest sin that you can commit being a Hyderabadi is not
visiting the Falaknuma Palace (the first being not realizing that owning some
means of getting from point A to point B is no more royalty but an absolute necessity,
as we have discovered brilliantly over the past fortnight). Only, since the palace
is the private property of the Nizam family, and since they are private people,
the only ways you could get in there for a long time were either being them or
serving them. Thanks to the Taj taking it over, there is now a third option -
you can just be as rich as them. It's now a Taj, see?
Indeed, a visit to the place can really make you wonder where you were playing when God made The Real People. The majesty and grandeur are simply too breathtaking. And for the Bhimsen Joshi concert, the Taj showed that it knows a few things about style. The dusky damsels in resplendent ghagras welcoming you with aadaabs and sprinkling rose water and petals on you either made you feel nawabi or wish you were. And the stewards in their stiff Jodhpur coats and white gol topis and the bartender in a black tuxedo probably correspond to different genres of opulence, but it's "opulence" that is in bold and italics, and underlined.
As for Panditji himself, "Had I not been a classical singer I would have loved to spend my entire life in a garage fine-tuning a Fiat or a Maruti." If his vocal notes are any indication of what his tuning capabilities for automobiles might have been like, Fiats and Marutis would be the ordinary man's gliders.
79 years get you feeble, but Panditji has far too much of the stuff in him to
appear even half that. And the story he narrated of how he acquired all of that
is second in inspiring awe only to his singing. Bhimsen Joshi started his journey
of music as a kid, when the bhajans his mother sang could substitute for food
for him. Wandering on streets and listening to jingles may seem an unlikely start
to a career that has a Padma Bhushan along with several other awards plopped all
along the way, but like we only know so well, it just needs a little riyaz,
and there are just a little many people who will themselves for it. And there
are only so many living legends.
A huge round of applause escorted him along with his entourage onto the dais,
which had his son Srinivas Joshi and some of his disciples. He devoutly rendered
his first song in rag Marubehag. Panditji being phenomenal is about as much breaking
news as India becoming independent. He is turning old, though - spurts of throat
disturbances in between got Joshi Jr to take over for a while. Junior has more
of a Carnatic tinge to his voice. The audience didn't seem too impressed, though
- it's tough when you have a dad like that, and tougher still when he's been singing
just until then.
The second song, "Socho Samjho Isa Nagari", was a compilation of swaras and alaaps. The swaras were rendered in a fast pace, and the rags flowed with natural grace. Some of the audience went into deep sleep, and while I am not sure if that is a compliment or not, a disinterested lot engaging in small talk somewhere behind certainly wasn't. They thankfully had the courtesy to keep it down after getting uncomplimentary looks from some of the audience.
The Taj organized for takhts with comfy bolsters in true Nawabi style,
covered neatly with sparkling white sheets, at one of the outdoor lawns of the
palace. With hardly about 75 guests, it was a truly exclusive experience. The
venue was just apt for the occasion, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The cool breeze and soothing music was perfect ambience for a Friday evening.
Panditji wound up the concert by singing to the tune of the popular "Mile Sur
Mera Tumhara…" (though a different song). The tune that O&M and Doordarshan made
an ode to the country's sense of patriotism stirs exactly the same feelings each
The gentleman has achieved innumerable accolades, but still smiles boyishly as
he says, "I am still a shaagird (student). I have a long way to go!" So
what about us then?