Reminiscence An exclusive article by Manna Dey on his experience of singing the duet, ‘Ketaki, Juhi, Gulab,' with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi for a sequence in the 1956 ‘Basant Bahar.'
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was not merely a gifted classical singer. He ranked among the all time greats in the field and improved his singing technique with each performance.
A singer of rare breed, he did not believe in any artistic compromises, sticking to his classical rendering like a true devotee.
I had the rare fortune of singing one duet with this uncrowned king of Indian classical songs.
Shanker Jaikishan conducted the rare experiment of bringing us together to sing the pure classical number, ‘Ketaki, Juhi, Gulab' for the 1956 ‘Basant Bahar.'
At first, I was nervous about singing a duet with such an eminent classical exponent and my reluctance was because in the film sequence I score over him in singing.
I just could not imagine that I, a singer of popular songs, could compete and defeat a giant of Indian classical gharana. Shanker Jaikishan explained the potential of the song to us and how it needed to be rendered and they were also firm about recording it only with us. Bhimsen Joshi was affectionate and sporting enough to encourage me to sing with him and told me softly that he was not being defeated by me in the real sense of the term.
He also convinced me to play with my vocal chords by raising my pitch to a certain octave and bringing it down like the motion of a painter's brush which softly colours a panoramic canvas.
While singing with him, I noticed he did not even bat an eyelid and was so involved that he was not even aware a recording was going on.
The song, ‘Ketaki, Juhi, Gulab' remains a milestone not only in Indian film music but within the periphery of any kind of classical song.
His rendering of ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' had a mesmerising effect which carries on even today.
I have heard Bhimsen Joshi perform solos in a large number of concerts and never did he dishearten his listeners. He had the habit of closing his eyes, while singing and opening them only when his mind asked him to do so.
Unnecessary interruptions during riwazes irritated him and he never feared calling a spade, a spade.
Another rare aspect of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was that he seldom praised other artists but those he did, genuinely deserved it. His demise has closed a chapter in Indian classicalmusic. I only pray to the Almighty, may his soul rest in eternal peace and be blessed by the divine touch of music.