Monday, January 24, 2011

“I’m glad his agony is over” Girish Karnad on Bhimsen Joshi

By John Cheeran
This should have been about Bhimsen Joshi but this is about Girish Karnad, playwright, actor and film director. All Monday morning television news channels in India were paying tributes to Pandit Joshi, 89, the music maestro, who passed away in Pune.

Anyone dies, in India, the tradition has been to say it is a great loss to country and the person’s chosen field of vocation. Karnad bluntly said Joshi’s passing away is no loss for the country. How different he sounded.

I have never met Karnad, only seen him and heard him on a couple of occasions in Bangalore. He has a booming voice and irreverent, blunt take on all things.
I have read Karnad’s play Hayavadana. I have watched him presenting the science programme Turning Point in the early days of Doordarshan. He always came across as a no-nonsense person. So it was not a surprise that Karnad, though quite close to Joshi, did not have any cloying tribute to offer.

Let’s listen to what Karnad said about Bhimsen Joshi.
“His death was no loss. In fact, I’m glad that his agony is over. I don’t think Indian music has lost anything by his passing away. He was not great but one of the most popular musicians of modern era. He was no guru. He was not worried about the next generation. He was worried only about developing himself as an artist. Joshi had god given talent. How he used it, developed it and enriched was all that mattered to him. He was no puritan. He loved music in any form. That makes him great. There was no hypocrisy. It was all upfront. He was built like horse. He used to drink, eat fish. He used to drink and perform at concert. He never failed to connect with his audience. He had a glorious life.”

Well, well. It’s time we learnt how to be honest from Karnad.


Anonymous said...

It was evident from the interview displayed last night in TV DD National channel , he didnt consider him as greatest, he talked about his compositions in details, Mannade also intervened, we are familiar with him by Mile Sur mera tumara, he was a Maratti.

Gireesh Karnad has acted as villain Governer in Kathalan movie by Shankar. And many award movies.
His directorial debut is Utsav, Rekha's best film produced by Shashi Kapur.

He is noted playright, we should admire his boldness. No hipocracy.

Jay said...

I think you are misquoting Karnad. I haven't seen this on TV, but read his comments in news papers. He didn't have a tone similar to that in your post. He infact has said that we need not mourn his death, as it was expected and we should in fact celebrate his achievement...
Do you want to check whether you got it wrong?
Also, I dont think, in this context, that we can say Karnad is bold and being honest. Well, when a person dies, who has not done any harm to mankind, why should you highlight his limitations (which are very few compared to his achievements), instead talk about his achievements.. I dont think there is anything to learn from Karnad, in this context (if at all he said what you have given in your post), it's not a great thing to be cynical.

PS: I've never heard Joshi other than in the Doordarshan shorts.

Jay said...

On second thoughts, its only natural that he has spoken so cynically, because you have to remember that he wrote the excellent play Yayati which deals with mortality. In fact I was so impressed by the play (which I watched in English, with Karnad present in the audience) that I tracked down the english translation of the book, just to read those punch lines on death!

johncheeran said...

Dear Jay,

I don't know much about music or Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. But I haven't misquoted Karnad. Those were the EXACT words Karnad used when news channels -- NDTV, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, etc- carried on their morning bulletins.
I don't see anything wrong in Karnad's tribute to Joshi. I blogged about it since I felt, here is something sincere and out of ordinary, trite tributes.
And I respect both Karnad and Joshi for whatever they are...
Many thanks for your thoughts...

Jay said...

Thanks Mr. Cheeran for the response.

John Cheeran at Blogged