What was unique about Bhimsen Joshi’s musical career, according to playwright Girish Karnad, was that he taught himself for the most part

There was something about Bhimsen Joshi’s persona that always reminded Girish Karnad of a pehalwan.

“He used his entire body in his singing. The voice came from deep within,” says the Jnanpith-award winning playwright, who, like the legendary musician, hails from north Karnataka. “It reminded me of what Kapil Dev once said about his bowling, that he bowled from his thighs and not from his arms,” says Karnad.

What was unique about Joshi’s musical career, according to Karnad, was that he taught himself for the most part. “Though he learnt with Sawai Gandharwa in Kundagol, he learnt a lot more sitting behind and listening to musicians like Kesar Bai Kerkar and Amir Khan. That was a tremendous achievement.”

His repertoire of ragas was relatively limited, unlike that of Dhondutai Kulkarni, but he “delved deep into his ragas”, says Karnad.

A certain “recklessness” marked the entire personality of Joshi that found expression in many ways, observes Karnad. “His drinking was part of that. It may have affected his concerts, but it never affected his singing,” he says.

Karnad believes that it is wrong to censor these aspects of Joshi’s life, be it his fondness for drink or his love of fast cars. “People tend to whitewash some things, but this was part of what made the man.”

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