Musical competitions – Boon or Bane?

In the recent Marathi film Katyar Kaljat Ghusali the song “Ghei Chand Makarand” is sung by two singers in distinctive styles.The song which originally featured in a Marathi musical play or Natyageet was popularized by the late singer Vasantrao Deshpande. In the movie the song is first sung in a slow tempo by Shankar Mahadevan who also plays a lead character in the movie. Then the song is sung in a fast-paced manner by the character played by actor Sachin Pilgaonkar. The playback singer for Sachin is Rahul Deshpande who incidentally is the grandson of Vasantrao Deshpande. Both styles are beautiful and create a strong impact on the listeners.

The scene where the song is presented in the movie depicts a competition between two musicians (over a span of 16 years) in the royal court of a fictional town where the winner is gifted a haveli (mansion) and a katyar (dagger) by the king.

By no means is this the first time a musical competition has been presented on the silver screen. In the old Hindi movie Baiju Bawra (1952) there were two musicians competing at the court of King Akbar – Tansen and Baiju Bawra. Noted Hindustani vocalist D.V.Paluksar lent his voice for Baiju Bawra’s music while Ustad Amir Khan was the playback voice for Tansen. The raag in the scene where the two musicians competed was Miyan ki Thodi and the effect was electrifying.

Rivalries between singers in western music are also not uncommon. Who can forget the alleged rivalry between opera divas Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi? Watch how they both sing one of the most famous arias Habanera from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen.

Musical competitions between performers can raise the bar in terms of the quality of music. When the rivalry continues off stage then it can easily get blown out of proportion. It is our collective responsibility as organizers and educators to ensure that competitions foster creativity and artistic growth and avoid ego clashes and negativity.

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