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`I am my biggest critic'

`The students are really serious. The future of music is in safe hands. But they should not be too eager to go on stage'


VEENA SAHASRABUDDHE is no prima donna. You could see that at her concert last week when she freely allowed photographers to take pictures. Even the flash bulbs did not upset her equanimity. Like any celebrity, she is surrounded by all sorts of people and she patiently lends an ear to each.

During our interview the following day, a film director was explaining a pet project to her (probably, a documentary) on musicians. It is clear she thinks the conversation will end in five minutes, but it doesn't; and she is too considerate to ask anyone to pack off. She does not refuse to take phone calls either. And when she listens to you, she is fully tuned. As she talks earnestly, it is hard to tell that she one of the foremost exponents of the Gwalior gharana today, who has won national and international acclaim for her singing. Also known for her moving bhajan renditions, Veena Sarasrabuddhe's style carries shades of the Kirana and Jaipur gharanas as well.

Excerpts from the interview:

You experimented with Kathak before choosing music as a career. How do you see yourself through your music, yesterday, today and tomorrow?

You know, music was in my blood. I learnt Hindustani vocal from my father, the late Pandit Shankar Shripad Bodas, and my brother, the late Pandit Kashinath Shankar Bodas. God has really blessed me. Everyone around me is supportive. I have worked really hard and I had no godfather. I have never begged any organiser (to sponsor my programme). I followed what my father preached: "Let you music speak for you." I practised hard, presented concerts against all odds, and went wherever called (to perform). It is only now that I am a little selective about the concerts I attend. After my husband, Hari Sahasrabuddhe, became Professor of Information Technology at IIT, Mumbai, I moved to Mumbai from Pune. I am teaching a course on music appreciation to IIT students and am training a 20-member choir group there.

So, hard work has led you where you wanted to reach...


You can say so. I try very hard to be perfect. I had the ambition of getting some recognition as a musician. All the great musicians have appreciated my music.

That must have given you a great deal of satisfaction, isn't it?

I am a very good student of myself. I am my great friend and enemy too. Nobody can criticise me the way I do. This again is my father's contribution. When I wanted his comments on my concerts, he always asked me to tell what I thought of them. When I explained, he used say, `You know it all then.'. He wanted me to be honest in self-analysis. I tell my students also to do the same.

Now teaching is your mission...

Yes. I want to give all that I know to others. I am taking one-to-one classes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Monday to Friday in Mumbai. I reserve Saturdays and Sundays for concerts. I teach music appreciation to IIT students on Tuesday evenings and train the choir on Wednesday evenings.

But my husband wants me to go beyond and make everyone understand music. So, we are into a new project. I will bring out two CDs that will explain how to appreciate and enjoy music.

How different it will be compared to Music Today's audiocassettes on music appreciation?

I feel the practitioners alone can demonstrate to you how to understand music. In fact, every practitioner should do this. This aspect is missing in Music Today's efforts.

About your students...

In 10 years, you will see some of my girl students performing well on the stage. Already Shivani Shende has started doing it.

Girls alone?

Yes. The only male student I had chose to become an engineer.

Your thoughts on fusion music...

I don't understand it. That is all I can say.

Youngsters' attitude to music...

The students are really serious. The future of music is in safe hands. But they should not be too eager to go on stage. (They have to) let their guru decide.

With your son, a software engineer, and daughter, a geologist, having settled in the U.S., you must have reflected on brain drain...

(Laughs) No brain drain. They are happy there. We are happy here. That is all.

GOVIND D. BELGAUMKAR

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