‘Bal Gandharva, Gauharbai took Gandharva Gayaki to the common people through their artistic passion’ | pune news | Hindustan Times
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‘Bal Gandharva, Gauharbai took Gandharva Gayaki to the common people through their artistic passion’

Sadanand More’s latest play is about the relationship between actor/ singer Bal Gandharva and Gauharbai Karnataki, singer and actress. The play will focus on the evolution of Gandharva style of singing.

pune Updated: Aug 02, 2017 10:28 IST
Prachi Bari
Sadanand More
Sadanand More(Ravindra Joshi/HT)

Dr Sadanand More is busy these days reading and addressing the final points of his latest play. The play is about the relationship between actor/ singer Bal Gandharva and Gauharbai Karnataki, singer and actress.

“It is in it’s final phases now and it has taken me many years to write this play. Everyone knows that they were married in 1951 despite the family rejecting their relationship. My play will throw light on their contribution to a style that they developed together, known as the Gandharva style of singing,” said Sadanand.

It was during his PhD research that Dr More got to know and understand more about rangbhoomi / theatre. His research was focused on issues ranging from Lokmanya to Gandhi and on what took place in Maharashtra and its impact. “I looked at the transition and its implications on various parts of life including art and theatre. Theatre, in fact, is a big contributor to the freedom struggle and Lokmanya Tilak favoured and supported play writing indirectly,” More said. 

During his research, Dr More did an in depth study about the famous person, actor/ singer Bal Gandharva, who had acted in numerous ‘sangeet natak ‘ (musical play) and plays which supported the Gandhian philosophy. Dr More read many autobiographies of all the actors and actress who were involved in theatre. “Since childhood, I was interested in knowing more about Bal Gandharva. My interest to know more about this fine actor, who could act as a woman and do it with style, grew over time,” said More. 

While reading about Bal Gandharva, Dr More was also keen on knowing more about Gauharbai, a singer hailing from the traditional singer’s family from Karnataka. Though a Muslim by birth, she has created quite a storm with her singing in both plays as well as in the early cinemas. 

“Upon reading more on Gauharbai, I came across the fact that she was attracted to Bal Gandharva, and his singing and it was her dream to work with him. She independently learnt his school of singing. She used them in Eklavya style and studied with so much depth to an extent of creating a gharana,” said More. 

She wanted to reach out to Bal Gandhrava, but some of the well wishers would not allow her to meet him. But when the cinema began, and plays started taking a back seat, the ailing Bal Gandharva also felt that plays needed a woman to play the role that he portrayed and accidentally, Gauharbai entered his life. They fell in love while working together. It was also a time when Bal Gandharva was still living with his wife and mother and his growing love for Gauharbai was not something the society was willing to accept.

But Bal Gandharva was also adamant and wasn’t willing to let go or lose her, thus creating a rift and conflict within the family. His colleagues left him and thus, he was left to manage his theatre with Gauharbai. The problem with Gauharbai was that she was very possessive about him, but they still had this perfect tuning and his company continued well, where both acted together. Gauharbai would play all the roles that Bal Gandharva once portrayed while Bal Gandhrava acted in the hero’s roles, but our society was so accustomed and akin to seeing Bal Gandharva playing the role of a woman that they refused to accept him in a male role. In addition to this problem, Gauharbai’s religion too came to the fore as opposed to Bal Gandharva’s brahmin upbringing. People refused their plays thus alienating them from the society.

Despite all these pressures, they were together and continued nourishing their art, which was a passion for both of them. It was simply not a relationship between a man and a woman but a relationship between two artists. They managed their lives by arranging and performing at concerts and taking it to people in far away villages. Bal Gandharva developed a new way of singing devotional songs (Abhagas) in addition to Natya Sangeet. During these testing years, they got married and created Gandharva Gayaki, where Gauharbai had a considerable contribution. But this fact is something that even his so-called successors refuse to acknowledge. 

If one has to read through all the literature on Bal Gandharva , it is all against Gauharbai. Some of them even go to the extent of calling her a vamp. Only writers like Acharya Atre have acknowledged the worth of Gauharbai through his obituary on her stating, ‘Gandharva has lost his voice’. 

My play throws light on the tragic process of how the artist couple were alienated and yet, despite such adversities, they managed to take music to the common people through their artistic passion. The play is a challenge and I took it as my duty to give justice to Gauharbai, for she helped transcend Gandharva gayaki from being ‘natya sangeet’ and surpass himself through his devotional songs.