It was Suranjali’s way of paying tribute to Bhimsen Joshi by organising a national festival of dance and music in the city. The duo-Purbayan Chatterjee (sitar) and Shashank Subramaniam (flute) took us on a ripping ride with a vibrant jugalbandi which marked day one of the fest.
Ragas common to both genres (Hindustani and Carnatic) like Hamsadhwani and Charukesi were taken up and explored in full gusto. Vatapi Ganapatim… found its equal in the bandish laagi lagan and we could hardly discern the difference between both the songs on the string and wind instruments, but then, it was the technical brilliance not losing its ground even by a slip in racy innovations that made this presentation unique.
Purbayan Chatterjee initiated the raag Hamsadhwani with a gentle pluck at the meend which pulsated with life under his adroit fingertips and wafted across in the alaap which was soon taken over by Shashank. He scaled through the raga and landed with the composition-each doing his bit — sangathee et al before they went into a brilliant swar taan on one hand and swarakalpana on the other.
The notes were laid out with precision and clarity on the sitar with Anubrata Chatterjee lending the right beat on his tabla. There was this beautiful exchange of percussion with P. Phalgun (mridangam) accompanying the sitar and the tabla in tow with the flute which created a captivating cadence that thawed the concrete environs of Shilpakala Vedika into a rhythmic enclosure.
The charming Charukesi was defined in-depth on the sitar which threw up the finest nuances in utter passion as Purbayan got engrossed in winding his way through the raag. Shashank was like a breathless wonder as he undertook the kampita gamaka alternating it with his regular swarakalpana in all the three speed cycles. The swaraksharas (syllabic utterances) were so evident on his bamboo that one could literally sing them along with his flute.
The clarity with which he delineated the swara phraseology was amazing, even at the third kalam (speed). The song flowed elegantly and then it seemed that the duo were all set for a healthy match that scored them so many brilliant points that it was virtually impossible to declare the winner. The taniavarthanam began with the mridangam player and soon turned into a sawaal-jawab with compelling response on either side. The tail-end (muktayi) took a long time (than usual) coming in and finally when they trailed off, it was rhythmic virtuosity at its highest. The sitar and flute once again set out on a rapid action journey with dramatic pauses and pick up that seemed like a roller coaster ride. A bhajan Jo Baje Hari Ko Sada was a fitting wrap up to this energetic recital.
The recorded voice of Bhimsen Joshi singing in the background during the recess was a thoughtful gesture to all those ardent music lovers of the great maestro.