Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beautiful stories knit by music

There is no dearth of talent in our country-- especially in the fields of arts and culture. And my belief was strengthened by this brilliant play I watched at Prithvi theatre, Mumbai on Jan 8, 2012 called Stories In a Song.

Conceptualised by ace singer Shubha Mudgal, the play featured seven short stories- each unique in its characterization. The actors not just acted brilliantly, I was amazed at the way they sang! They were all professional Hindustani Classical vocal artists. Through this innovative play, the team portayed the evolution of different genres of music through the ages.


While there was one play celebrating the liberation of nuns through Buddhism (Songs of the Nuns), the portrayal on tawaiifs demostrated the spirit of patriotism among courtesan's in 20th century pre-independent India. The main protagonist in this play titled 'Mahatma Gandhi and the Tawaif Sabha' was a lady in Benaras who was charmed by Mahatma Gandhi's compassion towards courtesans and in his faith in their contribution to the freedom struggle. A special mention here for Ketki Thatte, who played the key role. Her voice is mellifluous and she rendered some classical thumris with perfection. The audience was overawed by her performance and the voice lingered in our minds long after the play was over. Such is the beauty of Indian Classical Music, especilly when performed by an artist who has mastered the art through dedication and a god-gifted voice. 

Chandni Begum and Bahadur Ladki narrated the story of Lucknowi music and the contours of Nautanki. While the former gave us an acocunt of folk singers and their plight while trying to adapt to a changing society, the latter expressed the emotions of a brave girl who fought with corrupt officials of the British rule to safeguard her honour.  

Whose Music Is It on the other hand described the concepts of 'gurukul' in music, copyright issues and presented an excellent example of how 'original' music is 'rechristened' and 'remixed' for instant money-making in this age of cut-throat ocmpetition.

Hindustani Airs showcased a brilliant account of the ladies from the colonial rule and their inquisitiveness to learn the basic tenets of Hindustani music. This was a beautiful and amusing encounter between Mansi Multani and Pia Sukanya which consisted of melody, wit, and a brilliant combination of cross-culture music. 

And finally, 'Kajri Akhada' aesthetically showcased the many nuances of the 'kajri' form of music, popular in North India since time immemorial. The team of actors/singers enchanted the audience with their impromptu acting and brilliant singing. Namit Das stood out due to his clear, robust voice and effortless singing. All the singers in the group were amazing and they left us bedazzled with this final act of theatrical extravaganza.

I hated to leave when the play got over and wished they presented some other forms of music too-- some amount of ghazals, tarana, and a touch of sufism would add to the richness of the theme. Nevertheless, I truly appreciate the effort and research that went behind this innovative portrayal. Hat's off to the singers and musicians for performing with perfect 'sur' and 'taal' and emoting the content of the songs beautifully while also acting on stage.

I look forward to attending more such unique musical plays in the city this year. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree. It left me wanting for more! It was too good.

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