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On that Note – Madhyamavati

I keep watching out for film/series recommendations on social media. It is a nice way to break what gets recommended automatically to you by the algorithm. One such film was The Disciple (Marathi) on Netflix. The film talks about the struggles of a student of Hindustani Classical music. The film is quite enjoyable and I loved so many things about it. The actors playing the parts of musicians were so natural. I later learnt that they were in fact trained musicians. I loved the music and I believe the credit is also to be given to Tabla artiste and composer Aneesh Pradhan. I also read that the Director, Chaitanya Tamhane has spent a lot of time working on the script. I can say that the hard work really shows, especially in some of the smaller details that emerge from the world of Hindustani classical music. Of course, I could identify with a number of the incidents and characters depicted, since things are not very different here. Several scenes in that film reminded me of my interactions with my own Guru Shri Calcutta KS Krishnamurthi. My favorite part is that interaction with the collector, critic, snob whatever you want to call him. There are so many of them scattered around the place who are happy to throw their opinions, especially on young and aspiring musicians. They have their own versions of what is good, what is lofty and what is bad. As a student and musician, I heard and accepted what I liked and dismissed what I didn’t. There was this one instance when a respected connoisseur asked me who my favorite musician was. I enthusiastically said GNB! He immediately responded with “This is not the age to listen to GNB!”  I was angry but I did not react the way it was shown in the film! Even though I ran the risk of being branded an upstart, which I definitely was at times, I didn’t care. To be fair to these people however, they were an incredibly wonderful source of recorded music as well as anecdotal information. They also shared these with me generously. Coming across a GNB recording sung at home without accompanying artistes was itself a thrilling experience. During my early years of singing, two renditions of Madhyamavati were my constant go to recordings for reference. GNB’s rendering of Rama katha sudha and Ramnad Krishnan’s Palinchu kamakshi.  There was a critic who once told me after a concert in which I sang Madhyamavati, “Everytime someone starts Madhyamavati, I feel the concert is over and we can leave!” However, that did not deter me from singing the ragam in concerts. There was once a concert by Sethalapathi Balu where he sang a virutham and followed it up with Arputha Leelagalai from the MKT classic film Sivakavi! An old rasika remarked to me, “There are so many great compositions, why this film song?” I didn’t even know it was film song! Who cares, I found the song so full of raga bhavam that it did not matter.


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