What do you have to say about the award that will be conferred on you at the music festival?
I feel really privileged, since I will be receiving this award at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, which is one of the most well-known music festivals in the country. Also, I knew Vatsalabai Joshi personally and I know her contribution to the life of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (the founder of the festival) and his music. So, getting an award in her name is truly an honour for me.
Do you feel that the guru- shishya tradition is losing its importance in today’s times?
Youngsters today want quick fame; they don’t have the patience to learn. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi used to say that a student must first have the patience to just sit for two hours, only then will I teach that person. But, students get bored very fast nowadays. They want quick publicity. Classical training is not just about learning ragas, it is also the thought process that the teacher shares with his students. People also enroll in online music courses and some even feel that they can learn by listening to CDs. But, these are not the ideal ways to learn as when you learn from a teacher, you come to know a lot of things about music that you won’t through other means.
Tell us something about your Samvaad project?
Samvaad was inspired by my father’s (Vamanrao Deshpande) book, Indian Musical Tradition. The book is about the aesthetic values inherent in musical gharanas. In Samvaad, I did a study of all the gharanas and did their comparative study also. While doing the analysis, I got in touch with many maestros of different gharanas, who may not be very popular, but are the best in their field. The Ford Foundation, USA, presented me with a grant in 1987, under their education & culture programme. With the help of this grant, I established the Samvaad Foundation. I created one of the largest and most valuable archives of Hindustani music in the country. Some of the names that make up Samvaad’s catalogue are Ustad Salamat Ali, Ustad Nayaz Ahmed, Ustad Aslam Khan, Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki, Pandit KG Ginde, Pandit CP Rele, Shobha Gurtu, Pandit Jagdish Prasad and Pandit Ramashreya Jha, among others. The method adopted at Samvaad is one of unprejudiced comparative analysis between alternate interpretations of classical forms. This work, besides unquestionably being of great value to contemporary and future students, has also deeply enriched my own vision of music.
You have sung in Bollywood films as well with Asha Bhosale, Hridaynath Mangeshkar and even Lata Mangeshkar. Tell us about it.
The experience was good. I sang only Classical songs. The major difference I found in Bollywood was that there was a time limit to sing a song, which is not there in concerts. First time I sang in a film was in Vijaya. Lekin was my next venture. I feel old movies had good scope for songs and even Classical singers like me used to get a chance to sing. But, now the kind of movies that are being made are not the kinds in which we can sing.
You have learned from Pandit Kumar Gandharva and also sung with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Please tell us about these legends.
I feel that Kumarji was a great guru. He never told us to follow him in any way. He encouraged us to develop our own style. He never forced us to do anything and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was a great learned person too.