Want to be a
Here are 6 steps to faking it
Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhuri
STEP 1 Just Nod
Nodding at the right places in a recital is essential. But you can’t display appreciation at an obvious juncture (like a loudish tabla solo or a multi-octave taan); this will render you a part of the hoi polloi. (And once that happens, what’s the point in pretending?) The safest way to ensure that you nod at the ‘right’ moments is to follow someone else’s nodding pattern. Zero in on someone who looks knowledgeable; usually they are not overtly expressive with their appreciation and, importantly, are NOT the Fabindia/chunky jewellery/big bindi variety (this category is perhaps where you belong, if you are reading this ludicrous article with any interest). You could supplement the nodding by keeping the beat of the taal with light taps of the hands on your thighs; the tanpura accompanist keeps the beat, so it’d be sensible to follow him. If you don’t have anyone trustworthy to follow, just nod.
STEP 2 Cite History
After a recital, always claim that the last time you heard the artiste, he/she had given a better recital. Preferably, add that the last recital was a ‘mehfil’ in someone’s house. This allows you to a) wax nonsense about the superiority of a mehfil atmosphere over an auditorium and b) imply that you belong to the ‘inner circles’ of private recitals.
STEP 3 Be Hardcore
You must criticise. But, of course, in the vaguest terms possible. You should have a few phrases handy: “too eager to hit the high notes”, “great skill, good tayari, but the vistaar lacked depth”, “the interpretation of the raaga was not consistent”, etc. The volume of the tabla is a pet point to complain about (the equivalent of discussing the weather); it is also a let’s-test-the-water conversation starter with the girl sitting next to you; if not anything else, she will at least know the difference between what is loud and what is not. Depending on her response, you can navigate the conversation: either you use one of the phrases given above or you comment on how Bengali male artistes wear the ugliest kurtas.
STEP 4 Be Switzerland
In any Bhimsen Joshi versus Mallikarjun Mansur debate, try not to take sides. Ditto for Ravi Shankar versus Vilayat Khan. This gives the impression that, like a true connoisseur, you are in a constant state of cerebral confusion.
STEP 5 Be Shakuntala Devi
Mug up the names of the raagas on which some popular Hindi film songs are based (Chanda re ja re ja re — Raaga Nat Malhar; Madhuban mein Radhika — Raaga Hamir; Mere naina sawan bhadon — Raaga Shivaranjani). The next time one of these songs is played, you can casually say to your philistine friends, “Umm… isn’t that in Hamir?” That should keep you suitably smug and superior for a while.
STEP 6 Get Shakti
Finally, you must have a stated position vis-à-vis fusion. The purist take (that it’s all rubbish) is slightly hackneyed and may not sit well with your other (presumably) stated position of being a raging liberal. The best line to toe is to say that you are all for “meaningful” fusion. Muster up the necessary disaffection and say, “See, Shakti could set standards in excellence because four maestros not just came together but rigorously trained in each other’s musical traditions. So, if great musicians are coming together meaningfully, I think we can get collaborative music of the highest quality.” Always add that you are uncomfortable with the word ‘fusion’ and much prefer to call it ‘collaborative music’.