Most of us in Andhra grew up listening to Bhadrachala Ramdas Kirthanalu rendered by him. This was especially so during Ramanavami festival, when all streets would be blocked with pandals and these songs would be blaring out throughout the day. Most of us would be reciting them by heart and when cassettes were introduced, the blue cover case with Bapu’s drawings became an integral part of every household.
It was sometime in January 2013, that I got this idea that just like the annual Thyagraja festival when all the maestros assemble at Thiruvayuru and sing all his songs, there should be a similar festival during Ramanavami festival when all the maestros assemble to sing Ramdas kirthanalu at the place where they were originally composed i:e Golconda Fort.
Wanting to see this idea to fruition, I immediately reached out through a friend one Ms Dr. Saraswathi who was handling the affairs of the Maestro. Given the lack of credentials at my end, I got a tepid response from her but was politely asked to check with her again later. This was in February, as it took me that much time to obtain her contact details.
Meanwhile not having the wherewithal to pull off such a gigantic event, I reached out to A.P. Tourism Development Corporation through Sri Aravinda Rao, who was kind enough to speak to Ms Chandana Khan, MD of this corporation. Based on his advice, I wrote to her outlining the proposal and told her I would revert once I get a confirmation from the maestro of his availbility and willingness to sing at such a concert. This was in March 2013. Mr Aravinda Rao and myself spoke also briefly about the potential issues that could come up from secular brigade.
Not having enough time for making the preparations, as the festival was looming closer, I made one more attempt at speaking to Ms Saraswathi but was left with an answered call.
My experience has been that the journey of any creative concept to its completion has its own arc and momentum. Some ideas see fruition immediatley and some take time. Having received at least some initial postive response from APTDC, I was hopeful that I could pull it off in the coming year.
Cut to February 2014, in one of the worst forms of fascism after emergency, that too with the active connivance of all the political parties, Telangana became a reality. For some of you that may not be aware, this broke the proverbial back of most of us who have settled in Hyderabad thinking that it was our very own. Overnight I lost the emotional attachement to the place where I built my professional life and was suddenly made to feel like an outsider who is only welcome to sell biryani. We suddenly became ‘settlers” and made unwelcome in our own city. Besides the political barbs directed at us, I was upset with the public intellectuals who chose to stay mute to the rowdy acts displayed in the agitation leading up to the seperation. The feeling of not wanting to do anything for this city and the intellectual cowards overwhelmed me and froze my activist energy. Then of course there was this issue of Sri Balamurali Krishna hailing from Andhra! Finally the municipal elections for the twin cities too were scheduled and the new government was busy wooing the Muslims and any thing that could potentially upset them would be a strict no no. After all there would be always be a nut case that would position such a concert of singing Hindu religous songs as an affront against a Muslim ruler. So the question of any support or encouragement by the Telangana government to such an event was highly improbable and not even worth an attempt. (Around the same time, I was privy to the T Government cold shouldering the 10 K run because it was run by Andhras.)
So here it was, a good creative idea for a concert, that had the elements of a divine retribution; the outpourings of a devotee whose lyrics were laden with poignancy and the occasional irreverence, set in the location where they were composed, and sung by another devotee seperated by a few centuries but equally blessed with divinity. A setting for the audience to be transported back into that time when they were originally composed, come back to the present at the end of each kirthana, going back again as they immerse themselves in the next, and as they oscillate between the two periods, perhaps even transcend time itself and discover the divinity in themselves.
A multilayered tribute and expression of devotion to Sri Balamurali Krishna, Bhakta Ramadas and to Lord Ram, that should have happened smoothly as if divinely ordained. And yet it didn’t.
Why ? Becasue I was no longer enthusiastic, maestro was from Andhra and the location was in a fort ruled by a Muslim and there were muncipal elections to be won.
Divine purpose meets mundane obstructions.That is how I failed the maestro. In a way, I am happy that I could never actually discuss this idea with him. For if I did, I would never have forgiven myself for not organising the concert.