A look back at the Indian classical and semi-classical music of the twentieth century reveals a rich cache of compositions by multifaceted musicians. Shrikrishna Narayan Ratanjankar, for instance, was also a musicologist and the guru of singers as eminent as Dinkar Kaikini and Chidanand Nagarkar. The composer Shridhar Parsekar was also a violinist of great talent who died prematurely due to alcoholism. Music director Vishnudas Shirali composed for, and travelled the world with, dancer Uday Shankar’s troupe.
Among the most versatile of them was Bhaskar Chandavarkar, the film and theatre music composer and academician who passed away in July 2009. He is one of the composers who will be remembered this fortnight at an event organised by Kalabharati, the cultural wing of the Karnataka Sangha. The programme is entitled “From Ratanjankar to Chandavarkar” and will showcase the work of these composers through an audio-visual presentation. The National Centre for the Performing Arts will also be hosting a three-day programme on composers called Bandish, which will honour legends like Alladiya Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Inayat Hussain Khan and Kumar Gandharva. Kalabharati’s programme, however, will also feature semi-classical music.
Chandavarkar, for instance, did not restrict himself to classical music. He was a well-trained sitar player and a disciple of the celebrated Ravi Shankar but he also taught music at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. He wrote and lectured extensively on Indian music and also studied world music. His scores for films like Samna (1975) and Shwaas (2004) were widely acclaimed, but his biggest achievement was composing the music for Vijay Tendulkar’s internationally acclaimed play, Ghashiram Kotwal. Written in 1972, Kotwal is regarded as a milestone in the history of stage music in Maharashtra.
Chandavarkar’s student, film director and scholar Arun Khopkar, aptly describes Bhaskar’s score for Ghashiram Kotwal. “The sound of this play had the joyous eroticism of the tamasha music, lyricism of the thumri, shamanistic hypnotism of religious chants, grandeur of North Indian art music, playfulness of folk music, tenderness of women’s songs and beastly brutality and Kafkaesque terror of the shrieks he used during the torture scene,” wrote Khopkar in an essay tribute to Chandavarkar published online.
The composer’s concept for the play was unique, said theatre and film director Jabbar Patel. “He took the human voices as the basis which helped to build the dramatic impact,” said Patel, adding that Chandavarkar used only the rhythm section and avoided all other musical instruments except the harmonium which helped the actors sing in tune. The dialogue of the play is in verse, which inspired Chandavarkar to create tunes in accordance with the format of the play.
Patel, who had a long association with Chandavarkar, recalls him with affection. “We first met when professor Bhalba Kelkar was producing the play Dewanche Manorajya by Vasant Kanetkar for the Progressive Dramatic Association,” he said. “Bhaskar was invited to compose the background music for the fantasy and he created some innovative compositions. As the main actor, I was highly impressed.” Chandavarkar inherited a total perspective on music from his mentor Ravi Shankar, he added.
Chandavarkar also composed for PL Deshpande’s Teen Paishacha Tamasha, which was directed by Patel. It was an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. What was remarkable about the music of the play was Chandavarkar’s superb blending of the traditional folk and classical music with elements of jazz and rock music, a combination that was lapped up by theatre goers, said Patel.
Fans of cinema, meanwhile, still hum the song “Sakhya Re Ghayal Mee Harinee” from the film Samna. It is as good and as haunting as “Aayega Aanewala” from Mahal (1949) or “Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil” from Bees Saal Baad (1962). Edited excerpts from his body of work will be played at the Kalabharati session.
By Amarendra Dhaneshwar on December 28 2011