Pandit Murli Manohar Shukla was born in Mumbai on 6 th October 1932 into a music loving Bhanap family of Kundapur. His grandfather left his home town and in the course of service in the Great Indian Peninsula Railway spent a major portion of his life at Castlerock, till his retirement. Young Murli was quite impressed by his grandfather’s bhajans and still recalls the making of an Ektara by him. Murli Manohar’s father was more interested in quill-driving than singing. The youngster, though interested in fine arts, had to take up music as a full time occupation and as a matter of study due to poor eyesight. He had to give up studies and painting under medical advice and there was no better pursuit then music.
Initiated at early age into the intricacies of both Vocal and instrumental music, he was fortunate in having a series of illustrious teachers who included the late Professor Krishnarao Jaokar, Pandit Rajaram Shukla, Professor B. R. Deodhar, Late Guni Gandharva Pandit Lakshmanprasad Jaipurwale and Tablanawaz Taranath Rao Hattangadi. “I had wonderful teachers,” he acknowledges. “They were generous with their knowledge and time”.
Panditji created a sort of a record by appearing for Sangeet Prabhakar Examination with only 6 months of rigorous training. For others it takes 6 years. Interestingly, he created yet another record by appearing alongside with his Guru, and both Guru and Shishya passing the examination with distinction.
His professional qualifications began with a first class in the Sangeet Prabhakar exam (Bachelor’s in Music) from the Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahbad, of Vishnu Digambar University in 1951. He composed many orchestral tunes and can play many musical instruments. His classical music was broadcasted for long time from radio Goa. He had been the interviewer, music critic and writer of Sangeet monthly of Hathras.
He was Vice Principal of Lalit Kala Kendra, Bombay and founder of Swara Sadhana Mandir, Bombay. He taught music in Indian National Theatre and BMC Primary Education Department, Bombay. His growing fame as a teacher and performer led to invitations to perform and lecture not only at various institutions of music such as Lalit Kala Kendra and Swar Sadhna Mandir, Mumbai, but also at the Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad.
He conducted many lecture and demonstrations in TIFR and was honorary member of Faculty of Performing Arts Department of Vocal Music of Benares Hindu University of Varanasi. He had been the delegate of All India Music Teacher’s Conference.
His music contains a thoughtful and clear procedure. He is tuneful and expert in vocalizing artistic Sargams and Taans. He sings Bandishes of Kunwar Shyaam and Lakshman Prasadji with an equal ease and artistry. His remarkable style and voice projection deserves wide listening by all the music lovers since they contain treasure of innumerable musical jewelries.
“Mine is Shravan Bhakti. I have been fortunate enough to have been born and brought up in Bombay and had all the time in the world to listen to the best of the Khyals by all Great Maestros since my childhood. After listening carefully, I would do chintan and manan on each theme sung by these maestros and was able to reproduce certain nuances, phrases”, Panditji laughingly explains elasticity in his singing. “I had melodious Kirana beginning followed by sound Gwalior base. I was carried away by the haunting lilt of Guni Gandharva Lakshmanprasad Jaipurwale’s Style”, offers Panditji delineating the origin of his Gayaki.
Ustad Ameerkhan’s Merukhand phrases creep in, intermittently in Panditji Vocalism. The improvisational forays in Khayal singing by merely keeping 3 to 4 notes as a base and developing the theme and coming back to the original Shadja requires the tremendous understanding and control. The festooned Khyal singing in a Mukhada of a Raga quite unhurried yet meticulous progression and what is more fine senses and sensibility in coming back to the base note is one of the highlights of Pandit Murli Manohar’s singing. In fact so elastic is his singing that his Kedar sung in a hall may sound totally different in the treatment of melody heard on All India Radio – How come? Panditji pauses for a moment. “I told you basically I have been a great listener and I have God’s gift of reproducing any theme once heard. It so happens that the ambience of hall demands a particular treatment of melody. Though I plan in well advance, what to sing and how to put forth my Khyal, it may turn out to be totally different”.
He wrote many text books on music and published three books of his own compositions in pseudonym ‘Manhar’. Among Pandit Shukla’s most treasured gifts to the music fraternity is a collection of more than 500 Bandishes in many ragas. Panditji is one of those rare individuals blessed with an aura that immediately draws people to him. When blessed with his divine presence one is always magically overcome with a sense of peace that he passes on generously to each one of us.
Disciples of Pandit Murli Manohar Shukla
Panditji has also been an exceptional teacher, who brings out the emotions in students through music. His baby step approach aids students to easily grasp complex concepts. Always renewing with Riyaz and simultaneously allowing independent thinking, he mentors master pieces.
The following are the students that are carrying his legacy, Tanuja Dhareshwar (Divgi), Narendra Kothambikar, Kalyani Hemmadi Koppikar, Purnima Bhatt Kulkarni (Bengaluru), Sachin More, Shanta Benegal Ullal (America), Naresh Kumta (Flutist), Mahendra Kapur (Playback Singer), Shailendra Bhartti, Sajidarjun Karmajyoti (Flutist), Gauri Heble, Sadhana Talajia, Rima Desai, Ritesh Rathod (America), Sanjukta Wagh (Katthak Dancer), Jafri Fazal Abbas, Jessica Mahadevan, Vijay Mhatre, Vijaykumar Gaurav, Shailesh Goregaonkar, Manmohan Saigal, Shobha Agarwal, Ramesh Ahuja, Hemlata Nadkarni, Sharad Hattangadi, Ninad Bachal, Kiran Vardham (Flutist), Mohan Pawar, Shashikala Manjeshwar, Shekhar Shinde, Hiten Shah, Bhavesh Chauhan, Sarita Agrawala, Usha Zaveri, Kamakshi Baindur, Dipak Baindur, Bharti Heble, Paresh raja, Sujata Kulkarni, Dhruv Dhareshwar, Shreya Jain, Mahesh Patil, Himanshu Thakur, Dhwani Pandya, Damyanti Pratap, Priyanka Sachdev, Jui Inamdar, Tejaswini Bhat, Kiran Baindur, Bharti Parekh, Usha Patwardhan, Bharat Kuwadia, Dashrath Raut, Kinjal Borana, Dattatrey Patil, Ravindra DD, Sharvari Jadhav, Nayna Hattangadi, Shimol Sachdev, Rupali Dalal, Alka Dikshit, Kushal Baindur, Parnika Khanna, Saurabh Jain, Bajirao Varkhade, Mita Mehta, Shilpa Dharmadhikari, Datta Jadhav, Mina Kulkarni, Anita Kurne, Nirmala Shukla, Tapash Sengupta, Chaya Patil, Megha Phansekar, Sumitra Mallapur, Archana Sawant, Hina Mehta, Kunal Mithril, Mahesh Patil, Mangesh Sukthankar,Maneesh Maharaj (Kathak,South Africa),Nirzari Shroff and Deenanath Yadav.