Once upon a time, there was only All India Radio and Doordarshan. Even now, the goodwill these two broadcasters enjoy is unrivalled. Using this goodwill as a platform, Prasar Bharati, since last month, has embarked on an outstanding effort to preserve for posterity the brilliance of the living legends of the Indian classical music tradition.
Familiar household names, most of the legends are empanelled as "Top Grade artists" with AIR and Doordarshan. Every Friday, one of them is invited to perform before an audience at the Central Production Centre in South Delhi.
"This achieves several purposes. The brilliance of the masters is recorded for the future generations, building of a central pool of resources for AIR and Doordarshan which can be broadcast across the pubcaster's channels and radio stations, popularising the classical tradition besides of course, delighting the audience," said a senior Prasar Bharati official.
Already masters like Pandit Jasraj (Hindustani vocals), Debu Chatterjee (sitar), Barkat Sidhu (Sufi singer), Pandit Bhajan Sopori (santoor) have enthralled the audience.
"It effectively opens up classical music and the performing arts for the public at large. Till now it has remained the exclusive domain of people who can afford expensive tickets for the shows of the masters," the official added.
The entry to the stellar shows is free but strictly by invite. The qualification: anyone seriously interested in the classical arts. The venue: Prasar Bharati's 100-seat auditorium at the Central Production Centre in South Delhi.
The out-of-the-box effort follows the recent fast-tracking of the process of categorisation of artists, which had jammed up in a milieu of internal bickering and a cloud of controversy that Prasar Bharati found itself enveloped by particularly after the scam-tainted Delhi Commonwealth Games last October. About 1000 artists have been suitably categorised since then.
The public broadcaster, an autonomous body formed by an act of Parliament that controls Doordarshan and AIR, has classified artists into four categories: 'Top Grade', 'A', 'B' and 'B+'.
Doordarshan is the most-watched channel in the country accroding to the Doordarshan Audience Research Television Ratings' weeklong survey in May 2011, where the comparative TRPs of Doordarshan and private TV channels were collected.
"The only problem now is the limited number of seats in the auditorium with entry-seekers multiplying as the word has already spread far and wide," said the official.