Doctors of bansuri: Mumbai's father-son duo nurtures family's doctor-musician equilibrium

Updated: Nov 26, 2017, 10:22 IST | Kusumita Das | Mumbai

Flautist Siddharth Majumdar on balancing a medical practice along with a passion for music that he has inherited from father Ronu Majumdar

To most of us, a dentist and a flautist could not seem more far-removed as professions. But ask Siddharth Majumdar, son of legendary bansuri vadak Pandit Ronu Majumdar, and he might have you convinced that the two can work in perfect harmony. Growing up under the shadow and guidance of a Grammy-nominated father can be a double-edged sword. Siddharth, however, never picked up the flute, swayed by the world of fame around him. "I was clear that I wanted to play the flute for myself," he tells us when we meet the two at their Malad residence. It's no surprise therefore that he likes to maintain a low profile. A practicing dentist, Siddharth is busy these days trying to rent a space for his clinic. Weekends, however, are dedicated to concerts. While the last weekend saw him in a joint performance with Panditji at Mumbai Press Club, come December 2, the two will set off to Goa to play at the Spandan festival.

While Siddharth (left) is a dentist, his father Ronu has dedicated his life to the flute. Pic/Falguni Agrawal
While Siddharth (left) is a dentist, his father Ronu has dedicated his life to the flute. Pic/Falguni Agrawal

"Dentistry is something I chose because it is not typically a profession of emergencies. I can still work on appointment-basis and make time for music," says the 26-year-old, who graduated from Bhartiya Vidyapeeth in Sangli. He's, however, not the first doctor in the family. His grandfather, Dr Bhanu Majumdar, a famed homeopath of his time, moved his practice from Varanasi to Mumbai in 1974. "He was part of the Zoroastrian Homeopathic Pharmacy at Princess Street. Back then, quite a few Bengalis were good homeopaths. My father used to play the flute as a hobby and that is how I picked it up. I am the first professional musician in the family. My brothers are all doctors. Siddharth is the first in the family to be pursuing a dual career," Panditji says.

Siddharth Majumdar with his father, award-winning flautist Pandit Ronu Majumdar. Pic/Falguni agrawal
Siddharth Majumdar with his father, award-winning flautist Pandit Ronu Majumdar. Pic/Falguni agrawal

While Siddharth had hoped to carry on his grandfather's legacy, he was instinctively drawn to the flute. "As a child, I would fall asleep to the sounds of the bansuri. My father, after finishing his recording through the day, would come home and play from midnight until early morning. When he was abroad, I would play his recordings," he recalls. Daily riyaaz was a must. He'd wake up at 5 am, practice for two hours and then head to school. And, again continue practice in the evenings, after tuition class. Today, Siddharth divides his time between two clinics, teaching students at home and playing for himself. "He's a good teacher, someone with patience," Panditji smiles. "In fact, sometimes I send my students to him to prepare them for advanced classes. It can be difficult to nurture a beginner. He does it with ease." Panditji's association with stalwarts like Asha Bhonsle, Zakir Husain and Niladri Kumar has rubbed off on Siddharth. "Now, they love him more," he says in jest. "But he has never wanted to take part in reality shows or do the things youngsters commonly do, to become famous. That is heartening for a parent."

Siddharth's first concert in Varanasi, when he was four
Siddharth's first concert in Varanasi, when he was four

Ask Siddharth, how he strikes a fine balance between two careers, and he says, "Dentistry helps my music as much as the flute helps my occupation. Music clears the mind, and can be helpful for a doctor. Both require gentle handling, fine finger work and attention to minute detail." He does hope to develop his own style some day, but at the moment, he is trying to master the Maihar gharana, pioneered by his father. "It's the original dhrupad style of playing the flute, that had its origins in our havelis, long before the Mughals came and introduced the khayal style, under the Persian school of music," Panditji adds. Siddharth played his first concert outside India with his father, in Russia, in 2009, soon after his class 12 exams. "It took me some time to get used to his spontaneity. In a two to three hour routine, only a couple of minutes have a fixed tune. The rest is all improvisation. Initially, I wouldn't know what to play next. Now, I am getting creative," he says.

Pandit Ronu Majumdar
Pandit Ronu Majumdar

Last year, he accompanied a bunch of friends to Panditji's concert. "It was a pure classical concert, and my friends listen to Coldplay and Linking Park. But they loved it. It's about exposing youngsters to our music. They will take to it," Siddharth says. While he's aware of the pressures of comparison, he doesn't carry the weight. "Some years ago, when I won a competition, the judges learned that I was Ronu Majumdar's son. They told me, 'You should have played even better, then!' I am too young to be compared to the best. That is why, I have chosen to play for myself."

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