January has been quite wonderful for music lovers and it seems to only getting better. While SwaraZankar took place last weekend, this weekend, it was Vasantotsav, starting from Friday, January 17 and ending on Sunday, January 19. The three-day event was a spectacle for quite many reasons. Personally speaking, Vasantotsav has always been different and spectacular for a few simple things the organisers look into:
1. The grand stage: Vasantotsav has one grand stage, the wonderful set creating a feeling of a temple or an ancient structure. It makes listening to the artistes all the more better. They call it the ‘Ajanta-Ellora’ backdrop.
2. Cleanliness: Like SwaraZankar, Vasantotsav carpets all the area, leaving very little dust in the air. Also, there are dustbins at various places and the volunteers ensure people do not litter the premises.
3. Visual Effects: Vasantotsav might be the only festival that has a screen right behind the performers, which is used to create wonderful visual effects from time to time (the one which creates a picture-in-picture view of the artistes is my favourite). It is also used to display ads, but we really shouldn’t be complaining about it.
Like each year, the festival dedicated to renowned Hindustani Classical vocalist Vasantrao Deshpande, had a wonderful range of artistes performing. Here is a lowdown on the various performances:
Vasantotsav started with a performance from Teejan Bai. She performed the ‘Pandavani‘ with her troupe. It is a traditional performing art form from Chattisgarh, which tell a story with a musical touch, quite similar to our own Powadas. Teejan bai, accompanied by her troupe, performed one of the famous performances of ‘Dushasana Vadh‘ but had to stop half-way due to shortage of time. The audience was left wanting for more and I too looked forward to the performance due to its uniqueness. However, my disappointment was short-lived when Rahul Deshpande took the stage.
He sang a few ragas and wished to end the event early. However, Pune’s audience wouldn’t let him go so early. Rahul was asked to sing a few of Vasantrao’s (his grandfather) famous tunes, but he had something else in mind. He sang ‘Surat Piya Ki‘, ‘Tirtha Vitthala‘ and ‘Kanada Raja Pandharicha‘ and, the audience couldn’t have loved it more. Rahul’s powerful voice is only getting better with time. A wonderful end to the first day.
It seems, quite like the SwaraZankar, the Saturday event was scheduled to be the best. It saw the mesmerising Kaushiki Chakrabarty visit the city yet again. After the effect she had on the audience at the Sawai, the second day got a tremendous response. The beautiful singer was accompanied on tabla by Vijay Ghate and Ajay Joglekar on harmonium, making it even better. The beauty sang a bandish from Puriya Kalyan and a thumri from Mishra Khamanj. Her voice stayed in the audiences’ minds even after her performance ended.
The second session saw Niladri Kumar on the sitar, who was later accompanied by tabla maestro Anindo Chaterjee. The solo performance lasted a few minutes, and as Niladri explained it, was just mike-testing before the tabla maestro played his part. With Kaushiki, Rahul, Vijay Ghate in the crowd too, one knew that the audience has high expectations from the duo of Niladri and Chaterjee. They delivered and, the sitar and tabla created sounds that had the audience spellbound.
The second day would be the highlight of the festival.
The third day was spectacular for one major reason; Grammy award winning ghatam player Vikku Vinayakram. He was accompanied by son Mahesh, grandson Swaminathan and his student, Ganshan. Vikkuji performed with 4 ghatams and performed ‘Chatur Ghata Taal Samarpanam‘. He also played the ‘Ganapati Taalam‘ which is my personal favourite, along with other taalas. He got a tremendous response from the audience and Pune’s famed ‘rashik shrote‘ had jugalbandi with the master through rhythmic clapping. The performer was as amused as the audience. So much so, he asked for a few extra minutes to play his concluding part and everyone present couldn’t have been happier. He got a standing ovation for his amazing performance.
The second session was a fusion of sorts, with Rahul Deshpande and Swapnil Bandodkar teaming up with Abhijit Pohankar on keyboard. They were matched with two tablas, drums, saxophone and guitar. The hatke performance was appreciated by the audiences, the keyboardist and the tabaljis standing out for their brilliant display of their mastery over their instrument. It was surprising when the sound systems failed for a minute or so, a serious flaw. However, Pandit Vasantrao Deshpande’s bhairavi concluded the event, once again shrouding the minor lapse that took place.
Vasantotsav ended on a high note and the atmosphere it created was a very different one. The event was well-received and the 2nd and 3rd day saw a great response. It is no wonder that the event now has a place in the hearts of Punekars and has marked its place in the calendar.