Transporting the connoisseurs of rhythm into the mystic world of soulful Sufi music and heart-touching shayaris, SUKHAN, a mehfil presented by OM BHUTKAR and NACHIKET DEVASTHALI, is reviving the love for Urdu across generations. Citadel traces the Daastan
Soak in the beauty of Urdu music and poetry with SUKHAN, a mehl presented by OM BHUTKAR and NACHIKET DEVASTHALI
As you entered the auditorium, a calming darkness engulfed you. The curtains were still down, and you could sense the anticipation as the audience patiently awaited the beginning of a mehfil that followed, sure to be etched in their memories forever. Serene notes of the Santoor lled the atmosphere as the curtains rose slowly. The waiting, the anticipation, was replaced by a huge cheer and applause to the wordings of Husna, a song aching with the agony of the partition of not only two lovers, but of the lands of India and Pakistan. Soothing golden lights lit the stage, along with kandils hanging around the lettering ‘Sukhan’, as Om Bhutkar and team took centre stage, to give us a glimpse of the treasure that Urdu literature is! Managed and co-produced by Wide Wings Media, Sukhan was a three-hour long mehl, enriched by the jewels of Urdu literature, Hindustani Classical and Su music. A plethora of Urdu storytelling, or Daastaan-goi, recitation of ghazals and nazms and a musical rendition of qawwalis was the hallmark of the performance, the striking aspect of it being the variation of content, which was brought into this framework. No doubt, a section of fans have watched Sukhan for more than ve times, and are still counting! The whole of the audience was immersed in the allurement of the mehl, as poetry, written by the stalwarts of the Urdu tradition like Mirza Galib, Nida Fazli, Saahir Ludhiyanavi, Haz Jalandhari, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and many more, were presented by Om and Nachiket, creating ripples on your very conscience. After such an intoxicating mehl, we decided to have an informal chat with them. As they agreed readily, we headed towards the backstage, and asked the duo about their incredible journey. Speaking about the concept, Om, whose brainchild Sukhan is, gets a little nostalgic. “Both of us love the language. We were friends for long and used to share some shayaris or ghazals amongst ourselves. Both of us had thoughts that something; a show or performance, should be made out of this. However, it used to remain just a thought and nothing concrete was happening out of it,” he starts off. Talking about the beginning of their efforts, he says, “Once, it so happened that we decided to celebrate Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the great poet’s birth anniversary. I personally love him and hence on October 13, 2014, I invited some of my friends, including Jaydeep Vaidya and Abhijeet Dhere, who sang on the occasion. It went well as we had a small audience. However, both of us felt that we personally did not contribute anything
as such. Therefore, for the whole of the upcoming year, we started a quest to nd the best of Urdu poetry, to recite it on the next October 13. This time, the mehl took place at our friend, Ganesh Vispute’s house. The audience responded well and appreciated us. Hence, we went on expanding its reach, from households, to smaller auditorium to bigger auditoriums.” A variety of themes are selected for the performances, from monsoons to friendship, thus bestowing it novelty. As Om says, “Urdu poetry is so intertwined with our lives that deciding themes is effortless! Nachiket continues, “When we are not performing, we are brainstorming about the themes, the content and reading shayaris. It’s because spontaneity is the essence of Sukhan!” That’s a lot of research, indeed. It gets a testimony as we watched ‘Sukhan Is Blue’, the monsoon-themed mehl twice, with most of the recitations different for both. A thing to note is that all of the team members are from non-Urdu backgrounds, with Marathi being the mother tongue of most of them. The mutual love, which they share for poet Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is the tread that strung them together. Thus, when I ask about who guided them in this journey, Om nonchalantly replies, “Oh no. There was not a formal guidance as such. We are thankful to late Jiya Ahmed, who used to correct our mistakes. But as fate would have it, she died some time after our rst show. We miss having
discussions with her.” He sighs i n memory. The reach of Sukhan has increased manifold since its inception. It’s astonishing, yet fullling to see many youngsters, along with audience of all other age groups, crowding at each mehfil, to drink from t he fountain of the ancient language. Even t he creators never thought of this amount of love when they began this saga called Sukhan. Nachiket informs, “We had decided to keep Sukhan at a very small level of reach, limiting ourselves to a minute section of the present day connoisseurs. Then we decided to take it a little further and to our pleasant surprise, it worked on every platform, receiving appreciation everywhere we went. Om also added all the instruments and songs into the original framework, and adjusted its timings according to the auditoriums to make Sukhan what it is today. I feel this journey of two and a half years is important.” According to Om, the selection of shayaris is very crucial to Sukhan. Every piece of poetry has to go from various lters of relevance to the theme. The common audiences should be able to understand and relate to it, no doubt, but that does not mean that the quality of the content would be compromised. Maintaining this balance, while offering newness to each Sukhan, is challenging. As our heart-to-heart is on, with brewing mugs of coffee, the dialogue turns towards Urdu, and these artists vent out a common emotion. Nachiket
opens up, “Pertaining a language to a particular religion, which we do see happening around us, is not only incorrect, but also illogical.” Om too, agrees and adds, “Urdu is an Indian language, adorned with the avours of whole of the country, especially the north, and is a symbol of national integration, of the merging of the narrower identities. Urdu stands aloof from any kind of religiosity or religious extremism. The villains in Urdu literature, Shiekh, Waiz, Jaheed, are the ones who indulge in all kinds of religious practices. Alas, it’s our misfortune that people have interpreted it in a complete opposite manner.” Nachiket, in answering a question about the huge response of the youth to Sukhan, responds, “We feel overwhelmed as we see youngsters occupying the auditorium. What more could one ask for! Urdu is a difcult language indeed, with a lot of Arabic and Persian mixed into it. Somewhere down the line, the Marathi audience, resolving their prejudices, has loved and appreciated the mehfil, and we couldn’t be more thankful.” Om quips in, “A language moulds itself in a way to inculcate the culture of the land. Hence, even the thought of purifying the language is foolish!” Indeed, Indians love the mysterious language, and Om couldn’t stress it enough. Removing some misconceptions, he claries, “Look, the cinema industry has used Urdu extensively, since people understood it. Don’t we understand the dialogues, the songs? It’s because there is not a denite border where Urdu ends and Hindi begins. One could recite a sher in a railway compartment, and even an unknown person will say, ‘ Wah, Wah!’” As we chat, Jaydeep, who manages the musical angle and is one of the singers, enters the room, and we can’t resist him asking about the role of music in Sukhan. He, very humbly, replies, “The musical background of Sukhan was initiated by Om. Inspired by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s musical tradition, the music bestows meaning to the lyrics. Hence, it touches one’s heart. Intact, the meaning of any piece of literature can be explored on various strata. First line is at the level of words and the second one comes at the level of music. Music creates an impression on listeners’ minds, something which just lyrics are unable to do! When I sing, I realise that music, at the same time, delivers the essence of the emotion, while simultaneously taking one away from the borders drawn by meanings. The quintessence, the impressions, and the listener’s interpretation, is all governed by music.” He adds, “Though I wasn’t there for the rst mehl, I’ve been a part of Sukhan since long. The music of Sukhan has evolved a lot. I so love being a part of all this.” Om, praises him, saying, “Oh! We were craving to have him in the team. Both Nachiket and I knew that we want this man in the team. I had once written a play on Mirza Gaalib, called Mi Gaalib, and he had done its music too.” Rekhta, the world’s largest website for the Urdu language, with a reach to 150 countries, invited Team Sukhan to perform at Jaashn-e-Rekhta in Delhi in February 2017. Nachiket remembers how he had once stumbled upon the website online, and how happy they
were to nd one whole storehouse of Urdu literature. “We referred to the website for two years, and when Rekhta itself contacted us to perform at their fest, we were lost for words. Hum Delhi jeet gaye!” he cannot hide the enthusiasm in his voice. Echoing a similar sentiment, Om says, “We are thankful to all the great shaayars, to Sir Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and thirdly, to Rekhta. It is because of them that we got an authentic source. However, we were inhibited a little while going to Delhi. After all, it is the land of Urdu poets. A big chunk of the audience there would be from an Urdu speaking background, and not even a single mistake would be spared. We might seem amateurs to them. Nevertheless, we saw completely contrasting reactions. Not only did the audience turn up in huge numbers and love the performance, but Rekhta even increased our allotted time slot in the midst of the performance itself.” Sukhan has had the honour to perform on other prestigious platforms too. It has been presented at Ringan, an initiative by Aasakta Theatre Group, Pune, as well as Muktachanda, an initiative by the students of Fergusson College. It was also the inaugural performance at ‘Vinod and Sarayu Doshi National Theatre Festival’ in February 2016, as well as in Pune NatyaSattak 2016. Not only t he common folks, but celebrities too are fans of Sukhan. We contacted Jitendra Joshi, and he is all praise for them! He says, “Om and the team have become one with Sukhan. I could actually feel the passion in their eyes. Such type of performance, presented by Marathi speakers, is spellbinding, is just wow. I think words have lost their meaning due to constant use, but Sukhan shows you the true value of words. The mehl is intoxicating, to say the least. It feels good to see the new generation getting not only interested, but so zealous about the ancient language.” Mrunmayee Despande commends them with the words, “Superb and amazing are understatements for Sukhan. The show is formless, yet has a format. Om and I had worked together sometimes back, and I might seem a little partial here, but he is just too enthralling. Fantastic is the sole description of Sukhan.” Actor Sunil Barve, too, is a fan. He says, “Their presentation, their selection of the ghazals, the singing and the format, is but perfect. Especially the way they have kept the whole mehl interactive that includes the audience in the whole experience. It is not spoonfed; instead, the listeners get to know about the nuances of the language and its pronunciation. It is a memorable experience, even for the non-Urdu speaking audience.” Actress Chinmayee Sumeet applauds them, saying, “Sukhan is a once in a lifetime experience. So intense, I was touched to see the love for Urdu among the young generation. Om Bhutkar, along with his entire team of genuine and immensely talented participants, takes us on a voyage to a different dimension itself. The way of presentation, along with all its nuances, is outstanding. I have watched the show thrice, and each time, there is something new, something different. I leave the hall with a craving in my heart for the next.” All said and done, no words could describe the bewitching experience Sukhan was. Watch it yourself to see how words can explore the deepest corners of your soul!