For the past 60 years, the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav has been known for bringing the very best of Indian classical musicians, vocalists and dancers to the city, and this year was no exception with some of the country’s biggest names represented across the four-day festival by nearly 25 renowned artistes.
With the 61st edition of the fest drawing to a close yesterday, MiD DAY takes an overview of the extravaganza, which includes the views of first-time performers, dignitaries, children, and the food stall owners.
Veteran Taal exponent Pandit Mauli Takalkar said “I started playing when I was eight, and now at 88, I can do several variations on my instrument as per the vocalists’ demands. I feel that although Sawai has not lost its charm, the audience are missing out on the early morning and the late night ragas due to the time restrictions. Still I’m glad that the people coming here follow the Guru- Shishya parampara.”
Vocalist Begum Parveen Sultana said, “I miss the days when there were no time restrictions on the singing. The green-room talk with the musical legends was enthralling. However, I must add that the audience in Sawai is great as usual, which is the best part of singing here.”
Rewa Natu (vocalist) who took to the Sawai stage for the first time, said, “I was very happy to get a chance to sit on a stage where all the legends have performed. For me, it was a dream come true. I enjoyed it a lot and was happy that the crowd appreciated my performance.”
Vocalist Waseem Ahmed Khan from Kolkata who made his debut, opened the second day of the festival. Khan said that it is a great privilege to be on this stage.
Swaroop Joshi (12), who made it a point to come on all four days, said, “I am learning music at my school and also planning to join a guru soon,” adding that he liked the instruments played in Sawai, as well as the jugalbandis that took place.
Sharawani Podar, a student of Podar International School, said, “I love music and never get bored here. I come from Pimpri every day to hear the songs.” The 7-year-old music buff added that her father plays the guitar and so she is also interested in music.
85-year-old Anant Paknikar said he has been visiting the festival every year for more than 25 years now. “I started coming after my retirement, as I was in defence earlier I could not make it every year. I enjoy music a lot and compose my own Marathi poems,” said Paknikar. His wife Lila (79) also accompanies him every year here. Apart from the music, the festival offers a spread of food stalls, and for the last 50 years the ‘Bhel Sagar’ shengdana (peanut) stall has managed a loyal following from the festival-goers.
The stall is not only famous in Pune, for the great taste of peanuts served, but because of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s connection with it. The maestro was a regular visitor to the stall during the festival. “Before me, my father used to run this stall here and when I was a small boy, I used to come here with him. Even though I have no knowledge of the music in the festival, I always accompanied my father,”said Sagar Ulhas Kate, owner of the stall.
Maithali Kolhakar, co- owner of stall Purnanna for last many years in Sawai, said that her Ukadihe Modak (boiled rice Modak) are famous in the green room and almost all performers like it as well. She added that singer Suresh Wadkar was a big fan of her dish bhajani thalipeth.