My Name is Gauhar Jaan! -
The Life and Times of a Musician

Events

Release in Mumbai - 16th June 2010

16th June 2010 was when Mumbai had its annual tryst with the monsoons for the first time. With high-tide warnings and flooded roads, one would think that the launch of the book scheduled that evening at the Nehru Centre’s Hall of Harmony would be a wash out. But then it was truly a tribute to the grit of Mumbaikars and their love for music that had the hall packed and the audience asking for more.

The book was launched by legendary Santoor maestro Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and leading lady of the Birla family Smt. Rajashree Birla. Eminent Sitarist and President of Indian Musicological Society, Pt. Arvind Parikh and theatre and film personality Mr. Mahesh Dattani were other guests of honour.

Shiv ji commended Vikram’s work and said that there were several incidents like the difficult experiences artists had during recording in the early era that were a revelation for him as a musician and appreciated Gauhar’s sensitivity and her acquaintance with the medium to excel despite these handicaps.

Smt. Birla struck a personal touch when she recalled the association of Vikram with his alma mater BITS-Pilani which has been established and run by the Birla family. She also suggested that to ensure that artists spent a life of comfort in their twilight era, the Aditya Birla Group was undertaking several philanthropic activities.

Pt Parikh commended the research efforts of Vikram and rued that in Indian music woefully lacked research skills and that this book would be a role-model for music researchers. Mr Dattani called it an honest biography that did not put the subject Gauhar Jaan on a pedestal but gave her a timeless and universal appeal as a human with all her follies, successes and failings. He also read two passages from the book intertwined with Gauhar’s exquisite music that left many in the audience moist-eyed.

In his talk, author Vikram Sampath recalled Gauhar’s association with the city of Mumbai, the manner in which she found true love there in Gujrati actor Amrit Keshav Nayak, their heady days of romance at the Mahalakshmi racecourse, and finally his sudden and untimely death that shattered their dreams. The same clip that Gauhar had sung in a public concert in Bombay in 1907 at the Town Hall’s Darbar Hall ‘Itna Joban’ in Bhupali was played.

A lively interaction session followed where several people recollected their memories associated with Gauhar—Pandit Nayan Ghosh, tabla maestro spoke of his guru Amhad Jaan Thirakwa’s recollections of Gauhar whom he regularly accompanied, while Dr Suresh Chandvankar of the Society of Indian Records Collectors commended the strenuous work undertaken by Vikram. The high point of the evening was a delightful demonstration by Vikrant Ajgaonkar who showed the similarities between Gauhar’s music and that of Bal Gandharva and the other composers of the Marathi Natyasangeet era. The evening ended with a plaintive Bhairavi composition of Gauhar ‘Raske bhare tore nain’.

A lady dressed as Gauhar became the cynosure of all eyes as the audience eagerly waited to get photographed with her, the author and also a 100 year old gramophone that had been gifted by the Gramophone Company to Bal Gandhrava!

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My Name is Gauhar Jaan!

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