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Devotional makeover

art-and-culture Updated: Sep 24, 2009 16:19 IST
Ritu Pandey
Ritu Pandey
Hindustan Times
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Calling up a jagran singer during the Navratras can be an arduous task. The nine days mean strictly business for these midnight mistrels, with lakhs riding on a single night.

The humble night-long devotional musical session, a common sight in the Capital round the year, has undergone a materialistic makeover over the past few years. With extravagant shows of blaring music, a world-wide audience and singers raking in as much as Rs 3.5 lakh per performance, it’s a business in itself.

Mumbai-based singer Richa Sharma says she has an average of almost 100 performances in Navratras — three each a day! And she coordinates it between Delhi and Mumbai since her troupe is based in the Capital.

Singers come out with albums just before the Navratras when these jagrans are on an upswing. Community jagrans have TV channels for coverage. And since the guests no longer have the entire night at their Goddess’ disposal, the night-long session has been squeezed into a three-hour evening Mata Ki Chowki, where the devotees can look forward to dinner after the session and leave.

The changing look of the jagrans has almost paralleled veteran singer Narendra Chanchal’s career. “I followed my mother into jagran singing. People would sit on daris (mats) then and just leave us a garland or two or a rupee in appreciation at the end. Dheere dheere malaein badhne lagi aur notes bhi.” Chanchal today pays Rs 18-20 lakh as income tax, gives performances in countries extending from the US, Europe, Scandinavia to Dubai and even has a coffee-table biography to his name.

The music, too, has undergone a transformation. “What began with pakke bhajans and bhetein to the accompaniment of a lone mridang as an offering to Goddess Durga, is now replete with modern singing styles backed by an elaborate orchestra,” says singer Vipin Sachdeva. Richa says that she is even asked to sing bhajans on her film songs like Billo Rani and Mahi Ve, but she doesn’t encourage such requests. To keep up the audience interest intact, there are role plays by kids like Shiva performing Tandava, Raasleela by Lord Krishna and even quiz programmes like Kaun Jeetega Mata Ka Khazana. Beat that!