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ENRAPTURED AUDIENCE: The inmates listen in rapt attention.

ENRAPTURED AUDIENCE: The inmates listen in rapt attention.  

Ghazal Srinivas is using music for a social cause. By rendering ghazals and songs in Telugu and Hindi, interspersed with some dialogues on moral education, he is instilling values among the inmates of jails.

A SINGER dressed in traditional attire with tambourine in hand pelts away songs interspersed with `sermonising' dialogues to hundreds of inmates of a jail who sit enraptured for those minutes. It was an unusual afternoon at Chanchalguda jail when Ghazal Srinivas created an impact of a different sort. By the time he finished the ghazal programme sprinkled with his charged oratory, the crowd was one with him... the inmates rushed towards the singer at the end to shake hands with him and seek his autographs.

The performance in Chanchalguda Jail was the fourth one for the singer in the series of ghazal programmes organised by Harmony Concepts, the previous ones being at Warangal, Vizag and Rajahmundry. The fifth and last programme in the series will be held at Cherlapally Jail on August 15.

Normally, ghazal singing is associated with a harmonium and a sedate atmosphere where the artiste starts off on a slow and soft note. And the themes are invariably romance and separation, and the associated melancholy. But here, Srinivas enlivened the surroundings with his ghazals based on social subjects - revolving around human values. In the process, he imparted a bit of moral education to the inmates. Most of the inmates at Chanchalguda Jail are not hard-core convicts but those on remand.

Srinivas composed music for the ghazals and songs he rendered in catchy tunes with undertones of folk. The inmates could relate to this instantly and struck a rapport with the artiste. Quite a bit of improvisation was done on the spot. The lyrics are by different people - Tatavarthi Rajagopal Balam, C. Narayana Reddy and Narasimha Reddy. Vundo ledo swargam, Oka saari ravaalani sami, Drishti ni patti kanipistunte srushti ni vinnanu, Ekkada unnado koduku, Dard-e-jaana nahin kitne were some of the songs and ghazals rendered with meaningful content. Srinivas said a few lines introducing each song and in between recited some couplets and lines penned by Dr. C. Narayana Reddy.

SERVICE ORIENTED: Ghazal Srinivas.

SERVICE ORIENTED: Ghazal Srinivas.  

The programme concluded with a janapada geetam which Srinivas learnt from an old woman in his village. All through the programme, Srinivas picked up some inmates from the crowd and asked them questions and urged them to join in. The whole programme was an exercise in entertainment as well as education. Blessed with a good, booming voice and oratory skills, Srinivas' singing reverberated through the open courtyard of the jail. He interacted with the inmates for quite some time. "This programme really touched our heart," said many in unison.

At the end of such a soulful programme one wondered what made Ghazal Srinivas (an established singer) take such up a project? "I met a person on the train who narrated his experiences when he was forced to serve a jail sentence. He mentioned there are many kinds of people in jail, some innocent, some crooked. From that day, I realised that something should be done for these neglected people. I have been doing fund-raising programmes for various causes - children, old-age homes, earthquake and Kargil victims. I wanted to do a service oriented-programme for prisoners. So, I approached Ramakrishna Rao of Harmony Concepts and we organised this programme. In the first phase, I perform in five jails."

Srinivas is all for bringing about change in jails. "I do not call them jails, but call them reformation centres. One should change the character of the jail."

This self-taught singer, who has been singing ghazals for nearly two decades, plans to visit other jails in the next phase. "Every artiste has a social responsibility. Art forms can be developed for such causes," he urges concluding on that note.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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