The music in his words
In PL Deshpande's birth centenary year, vocalist Satyasheel Deshpande stitches together an evening dedicated to the writer's love for music
Khaanyacha suddha gaanya sarkha shastra aahe," wrote PL Deshpande, drawing parallels between the art of singing and eating. "A seasoned gourmet, like a khaandani singer, wouldn't eat shrikhand with bread, for the latter is a varjit swar [forbidden note] in this scheme raga. Shrikhand and poori on the other hand are vaadi-samvaadi, or complementary notes," explains noted vocalist and archivist Satyasheel Deshpande, as he recalls just how big a role music played in his life. "All his identities as a celebrated humorist, writer, director, playwright and actor apart, he was a musician at heart," agrees Dr Suvarnalata Rao, programming head, Indian music, NCPA, where he served as honorary director in the mid-80s.
In the birth centenary year celebrations of Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, or Pu La as he was lovingly called, the NCPA has joined hands with Deshpande to present an evening that brings out the music lover in the writer. "I have been associated with him since my early childhood. As a singer, I was close to all his favourite musicians, including Kumar Gandharva who was my guru. And as an archivist, I shared a common connect with him because he would love listening to archival material," Deshpande tells us. This evening, the vocalist will discuss Pu La's writings replete with metaphors from music, share anecdotes, and also include live demonstrations and rare recordings of Akhtaribai Faizabadi, Kesarbai, Barkat Ali, Kumar Gandharva, Balgandharva, Mallikarjun Mansur and other masters whom PL adored and wrote about.
"What I realised about PL was that he was a mehfilbaaz; he was the life of all gatherings, he would imitate, do mimicry, sing and come up with witty comments, all of which would seep into his literature. With his many references to music even when he was not writing about it, he helped create a new audience for classical music that wasn't well-versed with the genre to begin with," says Deshpande.
From her time at NCPA as a researcher when the writer was its honorary director, Dr Rao shares the many memories of him that she has heard from her senior colleagues. "It was he who started the concept of thematic concerts like baithakachi lavani and devgaani at a time when mehfils were more popular. He also played the harmonium very well," she recalls.
Another facet of his personality that both Deshpande and Dr Rao highlight is this: "He lived the life of a simple Maharashtrian; he donated huge sums of money to various causes," recalls Deshpande. Dr Rao adds, "A constant supporter towards promoting new talent, he gave an endowment to the NCPA, which was utilised for giving scholarships to young and promising artistes. Many of them have gone on to become worthy singers and musicians today." A fitting tribute to the man who served music with his pen.
On: Today, 6.30 pm
At: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Entry: Rs 150
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli