History & Culture

Musical drama brings epic to life

The Marathi Musical Drama, also known as ‘Sangeet Natak’ is one of the popular forms of vocal art in Maharashtra, apart from Bhavageet. It had its beginnings in the late 1870’s with Nal-Damayanthi, the first musical play on Marathi stage conceptualised by playwright and producer Trilokekar. What later set the ball rolling with prose and poetry in the form of song was Annasaheb Kirloskar’s instantly popular musical Shaakultal based on Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Shakuntalam in 1880, in Pune. It included 209 musical pieces in a seven-act musical that covered Hindustani, Carnatic and light music. During the British Raj such musicals were compared to operas.

Cut to 2019 in Bengaluru. The 99-year-old, city-based Maharashtra Mandal in its pre-centenary celebrations is hosting Sangeet Soubhadra, a classic ‘Sangeet Natak’ written by Annasaheb Kirloskar in 1882, that has been performed innumerable times.

The musical will have 10 artistes on stage, including lead performers and Hindustani music stalwarts Anand Bhate, Rahul Deshpande and Asmita Chinchalkar. Some more in the cast include Chinmay Pataskar, Tejas Dhandgaval, Raju Paranjape, Mukta Lele and Vaibhavi Joglekar.

Speaking about the lead musicians, Sanjeev Keskar, long-time member of the Maharashtra Mandal says, Rahul Deshpande is a renowned vocalist and grandson of late Natya Sangeet practitioner Pt. Vasantrao Deshpande. Anand Bhate, a student of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi also won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback for the Marathi movie Balagandharva in 2011.

The original Sangeet Soubhadra of Annasaheb Kirloskar, says Sandeep Limaye, another member of the Mandal, is based on the Mahabharata that had 82 songs in the Natya Sangeet form and its performance lasted through the night. “The newly evolved format of Sangeet Soubhadra will be performed for three hours with 11 songs. Many of the Natya Sangeet compositions are based on raag-based Chota Khyal and the intention is to preserve both dance and drama, while the form itself originates from storytelling,” says Limaye, adding that one can look forward to evergreen classics like ‘Radhadhara Madhu,’ ‘Pavana Vamana Yamana,’ ‘Bala Saagara Tumi Veero’ during the performance.

The storyline is based on the love between Subhadra and the Pandava prince Arjuna. While the Kourava prince Duryodana also expresses his love for Subhadra, the drama focuses on Lord Krishna’s strategic thought-play that sees her marry Arjuna.

(Sangeet Saubhadra, June 2, 10am, New Horizon Engineering College, Marathalli- Sarjapur Outer Ring Road, Call 9663330702)

The Mandal beginnings

Bengaluru is home to nearly three lakh Maharashtrians and they trace their roots to the 1600s when Maratha ruler Shahaji Raje was a jagirdar, according to Abhay Dixit, a Maharashtrian businessman living in the city for the last 35 years, and a member of the Maharashtra Mandal. The Mandal was established in 1920 in Gandhinagar, on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi. The early 20th century saw a group of surveyors move from Maharashtra to Bengaluru, and Surveyor Street in Basavanagudi is named after them. The ‘70s and ‘80s saw them take up employment with public sector undertakings like BEL, BHEL and HAL in the city.

The Marathi community, known for their affinity for music, drama and arts, needed a body for cultural arts and Bapurao Joshi officially strengthened the community ties by founding the Maharashtra Mandal that has for the last 99 years reflected the best of cultural events to form a fruitful association with other communities too. Even as the Mandal’s centenary is a year away, the run-up to the big day on Ganesha Chaturthi in 2020 has been full of pre-event activities, with Sangeet Soubhadra, a musical being the next.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 9:43:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/musical-drama-brings-epic-to-life/article27287694.ece

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