Sawai Gandharva Sangit Mahotsav(music festival) started by late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in remembrance of his guru Sawai Gandharva, is an icon festival of Pune. Come December, music lovers from all over India, start planning on attending this. After death of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi recently, the festival got renamed as Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Sangit Mahotsav. Apart from regular music performances which is what the main attraction is, there couple of other activities also arranged, which are equally significant to music lovers. They are titled as Shadja and Antarang. Former is a program where short films on musicians are showcased. Antarang is a program where interviews of artists participating that year’s festival are conducted.
These are held at Sawai Gandharva Smarak Samiti’s building in Shivajinagar area. I have been attending these since last 4-5 years. While history of festival itself is well-documented, I did not find history of this initiative documented anywhere. So I don’t know since how many years this is going on. But nonetheless, such programs and also Vasant Vimarsh, which is more serious endeavor, help lay music listeners in enriching their music experience. I have written about last year’s Shadja and Antarang here.
This year’s Shadja included following four short films on following artists: Carnatic music singer M S Subbalakshmi, Shehnai player Ustad Bismillakhan, Hindustani music singer Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Harmoinum and Organ player Govindrao Patwardhan. I was able to watch ones on Veena Sahasrabuddhe, and Govindrao Patwardhan. It was down the memory lane experience watching film on Veena Sahasrabuddhe(who recently passed away), about which I have written here. Her husband Hari Sahasrabuddhe also was present during the screening. This was made by Films Division and directed by Firoze Chinoy. The other short film introduced to life and works of Govindrao Patwardhan, about whom I did not know much earlier.
The Antarang included interviews with following artist who were part of this year’s festival: Ustad Irshad Khan, Ganpati Bhat, and duet flute players Debopriya and Suchismita Sisters. I was able to attend flute sisters’ interview taken by Magesh Waghmare, famous Pune Akashwani announcer. I could not listen to any of them the artists this festival. It was entertaining, to say the least, to hear flute sisters talk and also play pieces for the audience. They are the only female duet flute players in Hindustani music. The Carnatic music had its own female duet flute players, Sikkil Sisters, earlier, which is what I came to know during the program. Debopriya and Suchismita Sisters unfolded their journey. Mangesh Waghmare, who himself is notable music connoisseur, having presented many music appreciation programs on radio, made them uncover nuances of playing duet, western classical music, and also their thought on fusion.
Anyways, such initiatives are much needed to spreading deeper awareness and discussing nuances of music appreciation among the discerning listeners. What’s more, this has free so far, with a free a tea served during the break!