Saturday, June 30, 2007

MAESTRO'S CHOICE

Fulfilling the long cherished wish of shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan, a concert is being organised at the India Gate on July 15. Called The Tune India Concert, it will mark the 75th anniversary of the India Gate built as a tribute to 90,000 unsung Indian soldiers killed during the World War-I.According to the organizer Shivnath Jha when he along with his wife Neena Jha met the Bharat Ratna on his 91st birthday he shared his wish to give a lifetime performance from the precincts of India Gate. As Ustad Bismillah Khan reached the twilight of his life, he got mostly confined to his modest house in Banaras and his performances became rare. Ailing as he is mainly because of failing strength of his knees, the Ustad is not able to stand and has to be wheeled within the house for his basic needs. About four years ago when he did not have money and resources to meet the cost of his treatment and his other needs. The then Government arranged for his performance at Parliament Annexe where the Ustad had virtually to give a charity show for his own benefit. It was at this point that Neena Jha and Shivnath Jha, thought of bringing a monograph about the life and art of the Ustad. After running from pillar to post the support came from Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Televenture Limited and his colleague Hemant Sachdeva. The monograph was released on the Ustad's 91st birthday. The Jha couple presented him a cake of 91kg along with an assistance of Rs.1.5 lakh and a silver shehnai weighing three kilograms on behalf of the Union Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibbal, who also extended Rs.10000 a month grant to the maestro. Honour denied At that moment, the Ustad is said to have bemoaned the fact that he has been denied this honour despite his repeated pleas to successive governments. Jha says given such great insistence on the part of the patriarch of Indian music it was decided to make an appeal to the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal for fulfilling the wish of the Ustad. The Government, ultimately, agreed to the request. Given the Government support and the interest shown by various concerned individuals like Farooque Sheikh, Shabana Azmi and Sonali Bendre vis-à-vis Ustad Bismillah Khan, the Jha duo has launched a nationwide movement - Bismillah, the beginning - to not only protect musicians but also promote Indian music, art and literature.

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