Stage drenched in song

FULFILLING Khansahib’s (centre) singing and acting had amazing flair

FULFILLING Khansahib’s (centre) singing and acting had amazing flair  

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali enriched you with the complete experience of the Marathi sangeet-natak tradition

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali”, the Marathi musical play by Purushottam Darvhekar is a “simple story” of rivalry between two court musicians belonging to two different gharanas. So went the introduction to the play, staged as part of the Ranga Shankara’s Theatre Festival. But this wonderful musical, which has seen over 2,000 performances in its history of nearly 50 years, is not so simple after all. If anything can be called simple, it is the story line – not its music, not even the values it upholds. After all, don’t the most complex of truths come cloaked in a simple story?

Transplanted in time, it surely was not simple. Certainly not in these times when the true worth of an individual is assessed by the religion he practices. Everything about the play was absolutely effortless, marked by amazing élan, grace and perfection (including the change over from one scene to the next, what with their heavy sets). The two musicians in question – Hindu and Muslim respectively, even with an open rivalry for each other’s musical perspectives, have enormous regard as well as affection for each other. For their Hindu patron, the Samstanak, having a Muslim court musician was hardly a political gesture. In fact, it reminded one of legendary animosities between musicians. For instance, the one between Ustad Amir Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, which, never crossed musical thresholds. Sadashiv’s relentless pursuit of music, despite Khansahib’s refusal to teach him owing to his initial training in the other gharana, was deeply moving.

The performance itself was a humbling experience. The Bharat Natya Samshodhan Mandir, Pune, had such extraordinary musicians and actors in the team, that it was hard to believe that their pursuits of music and theatre was only an “amateur” effort, to put it in their own words. Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki’s outstanding music score is also his philosophy of music. The manner in which the play interrogates the notion of purity in music is extremely sophisticated, and so intensely reinforced through Pt. Abhisheki’s fine understanding.

Khansahib (Charudatta Aphale, a kirtankar by profession), was extraordinarily effortless. In his stentorian, extremely supple voice, he left the audience awestruck with his immaculate rendition of gems of Marathi Natyasangeet like “Gheyi Chhand, Makarand” in both its interpretations, and “Ya Bhavanaatil Geeta Purane”. One could hear in him legends like Vasantrao Deshpande, Prabhakar Karekar and Pt. Abhisheki himself. As good as him was Sadashiv (Sanjeev Mehendale), who revived many a golden song, with an ease that one could only marvel at. The court poet (Dr. Ram Sathaye) was another show stealer. His dialogue delivery and his comic timing were remarkable.

“Katyar…” is one of the most popular Marathi Sangeet Natak and a true-blue Maharashtrian has watched it for a minimum of four times. Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki’s music, which was a huge draw, has left the crowd begging for more in many instances. And of course, the musicians-actors would gracefully oblige. So there are performances that have gone on for over five hours.

Imagine the days of Bal Gandharva, Sawai Gandharva, Mansur, and Bhimsen Joshi acting and singing in plays, and the state in which they left their audiences. “Katyar…” brought back those days, of which one had only heard and read.


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