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|March 23, 1999||
The Rediff Interview/Pandit Ravi Shankar
'I did not expect the Ravi Shankar phobia to reach such a level where they are ready to denigrate the highest award in the land just to pull me down!'
Pandit Ravi Shankar is not amused. After he got the Bharat Ratna, his critics, instead of cowing down, have become even more shrill. What is worse, leading the pack is the highly respected Pandit Jasraj who has accused Ravi Shankar of lobbying for the award and said that there are many other musicians who deserved it far more. Is this a fair charge? Or is it a case of sheer peer envy? Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Pritish Nandy:
Even in music, classical music at that, politics has sneaked in. What do you feel about it? What do you feel about the charges being levelled at you?
Politics has always been there. All over the world I have watched the competitive spirit grow over the years. Jealousies, groupings, arguments. There are those who like Menuhin the best. There are others who swear by David Oistra or Milstein. It is natural to have your favourite actor or actress or musician or composer. But India is the only place where we fight over it. Where people try to prove that their favourite is better than the rest. It is like saying my father is better than your father and fighting over it. You should be convinced about it and keep it in your heart. It is not something to fight over in public.
Everybody has a right to like or dislike anything or anyone. From a flower to a flavour to a book or a composition but it is very sad that in our country we actually fight over such things in an unseemly manner.
Is this because there is a high level of peer envy among our top musicians?
I don't know. But I feel very sad when they take it personally. I do not disagree with people who have their favourite stars, their favourite artistes but I think it is not fair to denigrate others. Between us artistes there is usually no problem. Not at least in front of each other. But what happens behind one's back is very unfortunate. I remember once a student of mine came to me in Calcutta, heavily bandaged. I asked him what happened. He reluctantly confessed that he had got into a fight over who is better, me or Vilayat Khan. I found it totally stupid. I told him never to do this again because I am against this kind of comparisons, this kind of fights, arguments.
But this must be a new phenomenon where artistes, not their students, openly decry each other? That too, in public.
This is because of the advent of the media in such a big way. Everything has become larger than life. It was not like this 10 or 15 years ago. Today, with press and TV having taken over our lives, things are happening in a highly exaggerated manner. That is the problem.
But what's wrong with it? Earlier, people kept such things in their heart and did not voice it. Now, with the media available to them, they are speaking out. What is the difference, apart from greater transparency?
That is one way of seeing it, I agree. Another good thing is that public memory is so short. Something happens and you forget it in two days.
Exactly. Pop changes week to week, month to month. But great music is like literature. You have composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart who are immortal. They will live forever because their compositions are in black and white. Written down.
Photographs: Jewella Miranda
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