Behind the Musical Stage
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Among the many folklores and legends that surround the annual Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav in Pune, organisers are fond of this one in particular. Many years ago, when legendary violinist N Rajam was performing in Pune, the lights suddenly went out. Being the era before the generator backup was invented, there were murmurs in the crowd regarding the interruption. Apparently, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi asked her to keep playing the violin and she acquiesced. When the lights came on, Rajam was surprised and moved to see that not a single person had moved from their seat. "This is how inspiring the Sawai audience is. Nowhere else will you find such dedicated listeners of Indian classical music," says Mukund Sangoram, a trustee of the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal, which has been organising the festival for the last 60 years.
The event, which gathers crowds not only from across India but from abroad as well, has always been known for its dedication to Indian classical music. Historically, the tickets for the event have been selling out in a few hours. Sangoram says that the ticket sale this year has, as usual, been very good. A total of 2,000 "chairs" have been sold. The chairs are those seats that have a fixed number on them and cost Rs 2,500, reserved for the patrons for all six days. This year, the tickets for chairs were sold in an hour's time.
"The idea is to create an audience for the festival over the next 20 years. Panditji (Pandit Bhimsen Joshi) always used to say that music should be cheap and easily accessible to the common man. The season passes for the college students cost Rs 250 for six days and we have 2,000 such seats reserved," says Sangoram.
Interestingly, the Sawai Gandharva functions follow the old-school ways in some cases. For example, they still refuse to sell the tickets online.