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When music took a back seat

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In concert Pandit Jasraj performing at the Central hall of Parliament.
In concert Pandit Jasraj performing at the Central hall of Parliament.

JITENDRA PRATAP

VIPs commemorated India’s independence with classical music in the Central Hall of Parliament

At the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of India’s independence at the Central Hall of the Parliament on the evening of August 16, the Central Hall and the VIP arena was fully decorated to accommodate the country’s top most personalities. These included the President, Vice-President, the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and many others including the leader of the opposition Lal Krishan Advani besides many other VVIPs who were accommodated within the profusely decorated arena.

It was very sad to observe the indifferent attitude towards the guest artistes by most in the audience.

One was reminded of the pre-independence era when the court musicians were ushered in before their ruling patrons without any fanfare.

This may sound very unfair by today’s standards, with the organisers introducing their guest artistes with lofty tributes besides presenting them bouquets and at times even shawls. The last king of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah presented his ustad, Sadat Ali Khan of Miyan Tansen’s dynasty, a diamond necklace worth Rs. 12 lakhs for singing a specially composed song in raga Desh set to the 10-beat Jhap tala (“Takhat mubaarak ho”).

The introduction and remuneration to the artistes invited to perform at the Central Hall was probably made by Doordarshan, which was given the charge of entertaining the honoured guests. Whereas the VIP arena was lavishly decorated with thousands of exotic flowers, the concert platform at ground level did not have even a single blade of grass.

The sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with his sons Ayaan Ali and Amaan Ali gave a brilliant curtain-raiser to the occasion by rendering alap and gat-toda in the charming melody of raga Khamaj. After having performed, the trio picked up their instruments and walked out without casting a glance towards the audience.

Powerful recitations

The next to appear on stage was the famous Urdu poet-cum-lyricist Javed Akhtar, who recited his poem “August 15” with intense patriotic sentiments. He was immediately followed by his wife the renowned cine-artist Shabana Azmi, who very eloquently rendered Javed Akhtar’s soul-starring poem “August 15”.

Pandit Jasraj and party took to the concert platform and at first sang Javed Akhtar’s “Allah ho” with its music composed by Pandit Jasraj’s son Sharang Dev, which did not make any impact over the listeners.

Next he rendered his own version of “Vande Mataram” that pleased only in parts. He and his disciples, however, were at their best with “Vasudeva” which they sang with immense gusto and good musicianship.

The Doordarshan compere’s claim that the VIPs received Pandit Jasraj with accolades was not correct, since it was he and his accompanists who went around with folded hands seeking the blessings from some in the audience.

Trail of speeches

The evening concluded with a long trail of speeches by the Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Hamid Ansari and finally President Pratibha Patil. Speeches with political contents do not go down well after a cultural meet.

One was reminded of a Chinese diplomat who after coming out of a political meet was immediately hounded by media persons who were anxious to know about the proceedings at the meet. The Chinese diplomat’s answer was very short and to the point. He just smiled and said “It was all talkie-talkie, but no do-ee do-ee.”


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