An epic effort

Debarati Singh Palit
Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Lyricist Shashikant Panat and singer and music composer Gaurish Talvalkar talk about Geet Mahabharat to be held on June 19 and 20

Most of us have experienced Geet Ramayan, the collection of Marathi songs chronologically describing events from the revered epic, at least once in our life. Now, Punekars will get a chance to experience Geet Mahabharat. The event, which is designed on the lines of Geet Ramayan, will be held on June 19 and 20 at Balgandharva Rangamandir and Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagruha respectively.

The musical is based on Los Angels-based Shashikant Panat’s book titled Geet Mahabharat, released in 2007. Goa-based singer and music composer Gaurish Talvalkar has composed the music; while Col Arun Umbarje (Retd), and Dr Jagannath Surpure have produced the show.

After holding the show in five cities, the team is ready to showcase it in Pune for the first time. During a press interaction, Talvalkar said that he came across Panat’s book by chance. “I saw the book in a library. When I got it home, I felt that it was a perfect project to compose music for and within five minutes, I had composed the first song. In one setting, I composed five songs and within a few days, I composed all the songs,” he says.

Of course, he couldn’t go ahead with the idea of a show without Panat’s permission. “It would have been a copyright violation. So I tried contacting Panat on his LA address mentioned in the book but failed to do so,” he says, adding, “My uncle was in the USA at that time. I asked him to get in touch with Panat there. He sent him a letter and one fine day, I got a call from Panat. He promised that he would come and watch my first programme, which he did.”

Talvalkar says that they have received a positive response for their previous shows and hope to get the same in Pune.

The two and half hour-musical will have more than 22 songs, although the book has 57 songs. “We have selected the songs strategically just to continue the narrative. Hopefully it will tell the entire story and people will be able to visualise it,” says lyricist Panat, who will soon publish the second edition of the book.

He says that he was inspired by Geet Ramayan which motivated him to write his book. “I grew up with Geet Ramayan. I first heard it when I was 14 or 15 years old but it has still stayed with me, that’s the impact it has had on my mind. A music director friend of mine back in Los Angeles has been presenting Geet Ramayan every year and he selected me to do the narration for that. So, for 33 years, I did the narration. It had a positive effect on me. I thought to myself that just like G D Madgulkar has written Geet Ramayan, no one has written Geet Mahabharat, so perhaps I should try writing it because I was also fascinated by the Maharabharata,” he says.

He adds that while driving to work which took him almost two hours daily, he would carry a diary and as and when a thought came to his mind, he would note it down.

Though Panat had listened to the Mahabharata during his childhood, he spent a considerable amount of time researching on the subject before he wrote the book. “After 30-40 years, you might not remember the details. Also, I read a book on the subject which inspired me a lot.”

He has found some interesting facts during his research like, how 70 lakh people lost their life during the war and only 10 survived. “That’s the impact of the war,” he adds.

Coming to the musical, Panat says that it will cover the entire story of the Mahabharata. “In my book, I have written the entire story. In fact, I have also written about the childhood of Pandavas and Kauravas — how they were sent to train under Guru Kripachariya for 10 years and his teachings. There are some new story lines and some of the songs that I have written are imaginary. These songs are my interpretation of the epic. For example, I have a song on how Lord Krishna made a last attempt to stop the battle because he knew that in the next 24 hours, the war would turn into bloodshed, or another one on how the Pandavas went to pay their respect to
Bhishmacharya before the war but he did not say ‘Vijayi Bhava’ (Victory to you), instead he said, ‘May god be with you’. He told the Pandavas, “I cannot stop the battle because I have worked for the Kauravas all my life and I cannot betray them.”

Panat says that considering the love people have for our epics, he was worried about a backlash but nothing of that sort has happened yet.

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