CUL­TURE

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

Citadel - - CONTENTS - BY AAKANKSHA CHOPDE aakanksha.citadel@gmail.com

Soak in the beauty of Urdu mu­sic and po­etry with SUKHAN, a mehl 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 mehl, 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 mehl, as po­etry, writ­ten by the stal­warts of the Urdu tra­di­tion like Mirza Galib, Nida Fa­zli, Saahir Lud­hiyanavi, Haz Ja­land­hari, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and many more, were pre­sented by Om and Nachiket, cre­at­ing rip­ples on your very con­science. Af­ter such an in­tox­i­cat­ing mehl, 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 mehl 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 mehl 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 fullling 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 difcult 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 claries, “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 denite 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 mehl, 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 mehl 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 mehl 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!

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