The audience had just settled down to listen to the great sitar player Ustad Rais Khan. As the performer tuned his instrument, there was some
Suddenly, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi stumbled onto the stage and did namaste to the audience. Panditji was supposed to play only after Khan sahib finished, so the audience was surprised, albeit pleasantly. They applauded Panditji enthusiastically, wondering if perhaps there had been a change in schedule. Just as suddenly as he had appeared, the great Hindustani vocalist walked across the stage, swaying slightly, and exited from the other side. Before the audience could fathom what had happened, Panditji reappeared, bowed once again to even greater applause and then quickly stepped off stage.
The audience now tittered at his obvious inebriation. Meanwhile, Khan sahib continued to tune his sitar, eminently used to applause and completely unaware of what had taken place behind him.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has always been eminently liked. His fans have adored him not just for his musical genius, but also for his charming, unassuming personality and constant engagement with his audience. The renowned musicologist Rajan Parikkar praises him for his unfailing, discerning eye, which sizes up the audience in a matter of minutes and allows him to render a performance that thrills and pulsates every time. His fellow musicians too have always respected Panditji for his dedication to his craft, his incontestably significant musical legacy and his unremitting humility.
Vidushi Malti Gilani, disciple of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, describes him as 'mast'. 'Without any airs or graces', she says, 'he has always been natural, unaffected, and such great fun. He is entirely immersed in his own creative world.' Panditji belongs to that rare and ever-reducing crop of musicians in whose lives music winds seamlessly. Panditji did not bother to create an aura of classical mystique around him. He was always ready to enjoy a drink, whether before, during or after his performances. He has always been passionate about cars and speed. He has travelled so much all over the country that he is nicknamed 'the flying musician of India'.
In an artistic landscape increasingly filled with posturing and artifice, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's lack of pretension, true dedication to music and natural charm make him an icon, deserving of the highest awards and the loudest applause
6 months ago