Veena Sahasrabuddhe, one of the foremost Hindustani classical vocalists, doesn't turn up her nose at other genres of music. She loves Mozart, Beethoven and our own Lata Mangeshkar
When her mobile phone interrupts our chat with a Mozart ring tone, I'm taken aback. After all, I'm talking to one of India's top Hindustani classical vocalists, Veena Sahasrabuddhe. "Oh, I enjoy Mozart and Beethoven as much as I do classical Indian music," she answers with a wide smile. "And I also enjoy the old melodies of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle," she adds. In Bangalore, to perform at the Kalyan Rang Music Festival organised by Mumbai-based Pancham Nishad, sponsored by TATA and Metroplus, Veena Sahasrabuddhe took time off to meet her students and friends in the city. Music has been an all-encompassing influence in this singer's life. Her father, the late Pt. Shankar Shripad Bodas, was a disciple of Pt. Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Her father and her brother, the late Pt. Kashinath Shankar Bodas, initiated her into Khayal singing. Other mentors include Padmashri Balwantrai Bhatt, late Pt. Vasant Thakar and the late Pt. Gajananbua Joshi. "My favourite recording is the Bhaktimala series, all the bhajans composed by my brother." "And now having lived me with me for so many years, my husband too has got immersed in music!" reveals the Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi award-winner. Sahasrabuddhe, a retired computer science professor from IIT, Kanpur, accompanied her to Bangalore to present a lecture on computation in musicology.
Never say die
"For a woman, marriage and children do affect her career. But one should never stop practising during these years. It becomes easier to continue with a career in music after the children have grown up a little," says Veena, mother of a computer engineer and a geologist, grandmother of a four-year old and a one-year old. "My grandson seems to love classical music — he can sit and listen to me for hours," says the proud grandmother. An adventurous cook, Veena now relishes making what her grandson orders, be it pizza, puran poli or pasta with an Italian sauce that takes on a Maharashtrian flavour! In music too, the style she has created for herself retains the fundamental values of Gwalior Gharana while borrowing somewhat from Kirana and Jaipur gharanas.Respected as a teacher of music, Veena Sahasrabuddhebelieves that learning happens all the time. "My father taught not just music but every other skill that a singer needs — writing, reading notes, the basics of each instrument... I try to do the same with my students, even though they are spread out all over the country and theworld," says Veena, who is also a good table-player. The teacher in Veena forces her to talk about the pieces she presents at concerts. "However knowledgeable the audience, I always speak a little about the music, the composer, and the raag. For instance, I'm going to sing a piece in Raag Gorakh Kalyan, a not so popular raag, and one in Shyam Kalyan. Each gharana sings this in a slightly different way. There was a move to standardise the raag, but then who can say which is the authentic one? Each artiste, kaan pakad kar, swears that what he or she has learnt from his guru is the authentic one. But we have to keep on trying to standardise, for this is a classical form, and so requires firm theory," explains the singer.Happily posing with her spectacles off her nose, Veena looks around at the Chinnaswamy Stadium where this interview takes place. "I've started liking cricket. But I like the one-day matches more," she admits. Much like how a lay listener likes bhajans and thumris more than the alaaps, I ask her and get that uninhibited laughter again as a reply. Mozart interrupts us. And Veena Sahrabuddhe sets out in musical Pune-Marathi.