'It's very difficult to work under the shadow of a celebrity father'

'It's very difficult to work under the shadow of a celebrity father'

They discussed their music and their life one found plenty of similarity in thought especially in their shared passion for music. So also is their love for Satvik, Salil's school-going son. If Vishwa Mohan created the Mohana Veena, Salil has created Satvik Veena; if Vishwa Mohan created waves in the world of Indian classical music in mid-1990s by winning the first ever Grammy by an Indian, Salil has won international recognition for his collaborations with western music legends, including with Doug Cox of Blues, in producing the album Slide to Freedom. Salil revels in the tag 'Global Indian Musician' for his experiments in various genres like Blues, gospel, jazz, rock, funk and country rock. However, Panditji, as the elder Bhatt is addressed, shies away from talking of awards and honours that have come his way in a flood. In fact, as Salil reveals, he doesn't even know where the Grammy is. "Panditji never thought of putting it on display. It goes missing for several years. Then we find it. Once we found it in a crammed cupboard; once it was in a bed-box!"  R Akhileshwari of Deccan Herald spoke to Bhatts in Hyderabad .

Excerpts:
What does music mean to you?
Panditji: Music touches our heart through ears. It pervades both your body and soul. When saat sur are played they evoke an atmosphere like when an agarbatti is lit, of happiness, piety, positivity, love and respect for others. We also begin to miss those whom we love. Besides, constantly it is a new experience whenever we play different ragas. No performance is similar to the earlier one, especially since improvisation is a speciality of Indian classical music. Creativity is evoked constantly.

Salil: Like it is said in Rajasthan, raag, rasoi aur pagdi jame tho jam jaye. We wear nine yards pagdi that has to fit and sit comfortably. While doing rasoi (cooking) the cook is the same uses the same ingredients and same method but the taste varies every time. Similarly there is nothing predictable about a raag: it is not mechanical. While the musician puts his heart and soul into it, the ultimate form it takes depends on the musician's mood, the audience, distraction and so on.

Does international recognition makes a difference in the trajectory of your career?
Salil: When Panditji won the Grammy 17 years ago, nobody in India had heard of it or realised its value. Even the then President of India asked what it was! Panditji never thought of putting the Grammy in a showcase and display it (at home). But I believe international awards go a long way in giving a boost to the artiste's image, in the eyes of our own people. Also, I need such recognition. Nobody other than Abhishek Bachchan will understand what it means to live and perform in the shadow of a celebrity-father.

It didn't help to be your father's son?
Salil: It was not easy to have a father who is also my guru and who is highly principled. He's not like other celebrity fathers who promote their children. My father doesn't even acknowledge that I play veena, forget about praising me! .

Panditji: No it's not like that. I do read articles about you and I do keep a track.

Do you think the legacy of classical music will be carried forward?
Panditji: Indians swear by three religions, their own religion, Bollywood and cricket. If only one per cent of the money spent on these three is spent on art and heritage, classical music will get a new life. Today, there are no sponsors, no recognition and no money for music. We don't earn in an entire lifetime what Michael Jackson earned in one concert. We need the support of all to take forward our legacy, from the citizens who should feel responsible for our legacy and also from media. Why is there no column on classical music in any media? Why are pictures of musicians not blown up in newspapers and magazines? There are TV channels for everything, from sports to animals. In fact animals have three channels but not even one for classical music.

Salil: Those who are at the top are comfortable but the upcoming artistes have no support, especially sponsors. They get no funds and no audience and people are happy to watch 200 TV channels.

Why music legacy is handed down by father to son and not daughters?
Panditji: Yes, it is a very bad thing. I have two sons but I agree it happens in 90 per cent of cases.  It is a bitter truth that ours is a male-dominated society. My mother, Chandrakala Bhatt who was extremely talented stood up to tradition by being instrumental in introducing music as a subject in schools and colleges but she did not perform in public. Things are changing now, but very slowly. In South though, it is different. Both vocal and instrumental classical music is dominated by women.

Salil: But women artistes get more attention, they get promoted easily.

Panditji: Women have to be treated differently. They are fragile and tender.

Salil: In my next janma I would like to be born as a woman. As a procreator, a woman is on par with God. Two things, a mother and music can transform even a killer.
Panditji: I agree!

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