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A melodious journey...

"I love to try out new cuisine all the time," says Shujaat Hussain Khan before segregating I'Ching, Karim's, Great Kebab factory and the Coffee Shop at The Grand as his favourite restaurants.



FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Shujaat Hussain Khan reveals a few things about classical music over food at Radisson hotel's I-Ching restaurant in New Delhi. Photo: R.V. Moorthy.

NO CULTIVATED drawls, no beating about the bush, Shujaat Hussain Khan chooses to impress only by the beauty of his soul apart from brilliance at the fret board. He might represent the seventh generation in a distinguished lineage of musical stalwarts representing the Imdadkhani gharana and the son of the famous doyen of sitar Ustaad Vilayat Khan, but here in I'Ching, Radisson's Chinese restaurant he shares a different rapport all together.

His simple and friendly demeanour and the prompt service of the staff seem to be quite an indication of a special bond between them, a bond cemented by his love for Schezwan cuisine. "I love to try out new cuisine all the time," informs the maestro before segregating I'Ching, Karim's, Great Kebab factory and the Coffee Shop at The Grand as his favourite restaurants.

He is frank but the prawn dimsums bring out his candid best. "There is a need for more youngsters to come up. Not that there is a decline in classical music but just like in sports and business, in music too the best people need to come out. Isn't this a very scary situation where music has been limited to a handful of families only? People from non-musical background can also make it and they are actually making it happen. A new person just has to find a teacher who treats him like a son," he gives out the secret after getting his favourite chilly sauce.

Is that all? one asks. "No, prawns are good but the fried crispy lamb with sweet and spicy sauce is a must. And yes put some honey in it, that makes it all the more special," he informs before continuing. "Classical music is like a `tapasya'. It needs a lot of time apart from complete loyalty. A student can't expect to get breaks whenever he wants. It takes years. If someone wants to be an overnight success, then he should try pop music. But a pop star's life is limited," says Shujaat whose music, even though rooted in tradition, still reaches out to explore the nuances of modernity.

Deft at playing the host himself, he asks the accompanying musicians, "What will you like to have?" The musicians politely decline the offer. "What kind of artists are you? Who knows we get food the next time or not", he conjectures. A plate of diced chicken with the ever favourite dried chillies gets him rolling again. "You can also get successful by lifting tunes or by portraying semi-naked women. You don't need to go for classical music if that is what you want. Why doesn't Daler Mehandi sing classical? It's simply because he can't, nor does he even need to. Shubha Mudgal, however sings light classical because she can. This, however in no way means that pop is easy, it's not."

The menu's rice and noodles section still remains untouched as does the beverages section. "I am not really a rice and noodles person. As for alcohol, I don't drink because I want to be accountable for whatever I do or say. Besides I am already in the `suroor' of music," he explains. "I can cook chicken, vegetables and am actually quite good at putting things together. I can make very good omelettes too," he informs. Rare lapse of modesty, for he normally lets the awards and the concert reviews do the talking.

"Awards give a stamp of acceptability but sadly so, a lot of awards in India are won not on merit but by lobbying. They have lost their shine," says the virtuoso whose album `Rain had been nominated for world traditional music at the Grammy's. "It's a great honour but more important than that is when a seasoned critic appreciates you. It's worth a thousand Grammies. For me classical music is life itself. I don't go for films as I can't compromise on music. Sensuality is nice, but not vulgarity. I don't do commercial films for this reason, while the art films have a really short life. But I am not totally averse to the idea. I just finished background music for a Michael Brooks film titled `India, A Kingdom of Tigers'," he explains.

He wraps up the lunch with an earnest plea: We as Indians should recognise classical music before it stops recognising us. Failing to do so won't be bad for music, it will only be bad for us. Now, that's some food for thought.

S.M. YASIR

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