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Five years ago, city photographer Sateesh Paknikar's first exhibition "Down Memory Lane", at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, was a culmination of sorts. This year, his exhibition, a regular feature at the Sawai festival, will see him showcase 28 photographs and four letters of the late Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, the founder of the Kirana Gharana. Paknikar has been documenting the 60-year-old Sawai Festival since last 30 years.
Paknikar says that the last five years have been instrumental in transforming the face of the festival rapidly. Recalling the time when he began documenting the festival, he says, "It was held at the Renuka Swaroop Hall, a small venue with minimum facilities. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the founder of the festival, was there then. After having moved to its current premises at Ramanbaug, there has been a sea change — right from the seating area to technological improvements and the addition of various side events," he says.
Speaking more about his exhibition this year, he says he decided to showcase Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Sahab pictures as this year is his 75th death anniversary. Sourcing the pictures, he says, was a whole new challenge. "He passed away 75 years ago, so the pictures that were shot are almost 100 years old," he says.
The work on sourcing the photos began in October this year. While some of the pictures were taken from books, others were provided by Meena Fatarphekar, a disciple of Saraswati Bai Rane of the Kirana Gharana. "There is a photo almost 100 years old, in which he is sitting in a mehfil and singing, oblivious of the world around him and yet connected to it; the picture is a personal favourite," says Paknikar. The highlight of the exhibition are the four letters written by him Ustad Karim Khan. The letters reveal his extreme love for music and also his passion for the Kirana Gharana.