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Baithak in the Park

Updated on: 30 March,2024 09:12 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Devashish Kamble |

A citizens group in Shivaji Park silently but steadily continues to promote Hindustani classical music through their sessions that showcase upcoming and veteran performers on the same platform

Baithak in the Park

Ustad Farooque Latif Khan, Neela Bhagwat and Neil Khopkar at a previous performance

Sandwiched between the old-world charm of South Mumbai and the city’s suburbs lies central Mumbai, where time appears to often take a breather. Head west from Matunga, and you can feel the lingering aroma of freshly brewed filter kaapi give way to the gentle hum of shastriya sangeet [classical music] in Dadar. Or at least, you once could. As Neil Khopkar, who grew up in the neighbourhood, reminisces, “My grandfather would hum shastriya sangeet during his daily chores and even as we headed out for errands in Shivaji Park.” Khopkar, now a trained musician, will take the stage with stalwarts like Neela Bhagwat, Ustad Farooque Latif Khan, Tarun Lala and Prakash Naik at a music baithak today.

Tarun Lala
Tarun Lala

Khopkar believes that growing up in the neighbourhood, he only experienced the vestiges of the thriving classical scene it once hosted. “My grandparents would tell me stories of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Sudhir Phadke frequenting the neighbourhood. One of my earliest memories, and what might well be the beginning of my musical journey, is a baithak we hosted for classical musicians at home,” he recalls fondly. The trained dulcimer player and vocalist further notes that performances, back in the day, were relatively informal affairs. “Musicians would gather in auditoriums for performances and enthusiasts would follow. There was a thriving artiste community and an equally passionate audience. Sadly, I also witnessed the interest dwindle down over time,” he sighs.

Attempting to revive this interest is The Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh, a close-knit citizens’ group that has been quietly organising music baithaks, bringing upcoming and established talents under one roof. Chairperson Amarendra Dhaneshwar informs us that while the community was established in 1947 with the primary goal of social work, the baithaks have been a mainstay since 2005. “We started with the aim to preserve the dying practice of simply coming together and appreciating Hindustani classical music. This allows enthusiasts to witness artistes in close quarters. This sense of intimacy is what sets the baithaks apart,” he notes.

In this session, the baithak will witness Bhagwat, a veteran vocalist of the Gwalior Gharana take stage. Over a phone call from her Dadar residence, the 82-year-old shares, “I have been a Leftist and a feminist throughout my career as a Hindustani classical musician. In the 1960s, Shivaji Park was not just a neighbourhood that promoted the arts but one where you could openly congregate with like-minded individuals.” As she prepares to perform at the baithak with her protégé Khopkar, she remarks, “Hindustani classical music is our heritage. I am here to merely share it with the younger generations through the few surviving platforms that still exist in the city.”      

On: Today, 5.30 pm 
At: Nagrik Sangh Auditorium, Shivaji Park, Dadar West. 
Call: 9920223793

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