One-man army

Fifteen years ago, Shekhar Sen had everything that he wished for in his life. He had composed the music for several television serials, released over 190 audio cassettes and CDs of devotional songs and performed in many live shows. But the singer, composer and lyricist wasn’t happy.

Shekhar Sen

Though audiences appreciated his compositions, he felt an urge to connect with them on a deeper level. That’s when he thought of interweaving music with theatre to devise musical mono-acts on the lives of famous personalities.

As Soordas in his latest production

Since 1998, Sen has performed over 760 shows of Tulsidas, Kabeer and Swami Vivekanand. Last month, he staged his latest musical based on the life of 15th-century saint, poet and musician, Soordas.

Explaining what prompted him to showcase the lives of these personalities on stage, Sen says, “All of us know about Swami Vivekananda, Kabir and Tulsidas but we don’t know what were the reasons that prompted them to make certain choices in their life. For instance, why did Tulsidas write the Ramayana, how did a visually-impaired Soordas write more than 10,000 bhajans in praise of lord Krishna? I chose these characters, as I wanted to portray the representatives of Indian culture on stage.”

Born in a family of classical singers of Gwalior Gharana, Sen grew up learning music at an early age. The 52-year-old artiste admits the difficult part is to ensure that other components fall into place in his productions. He says. “The first step is extensive research. I read a lot of books and refer to the Internet to gather data about the characters. As so much information is available everywhere I need to cross check facts,” he elaborates.

The next step is to pen the script, compose the music and background score, record songs, come up with the voices of multiple actors on stage, and also master the dialects involved. Sen says, “In order to memorise the lines and get into the skin of the characters, I rehearse everyday for six to eight hours. This has been my daily regime for the last 15 years.”

The artiste admits that though each production is replete with challenges, he was especially nervous about his latest work on Soordas.

“I was nervous as I had to essay a visually-impaired person stage. Also this musical has 34 song sequences and each of them has a different raga. But thankfully, my daily practice sessions proved to be handy,” he concludes. 

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