Courtsey: The Kanara Saraswat Association, 1992
I have come across three types of musicians. some despite being in lime light hanker for publicity and are labeled as media crazy. Their so called disciples act as media agents and ensure proper and intelligent coverage in the press and Doordarshan. There are some others who run after publicity and publicity eludes them. There is yet another small group, who run away from media but media seeks them out. Pandit Murli Manohar Shukla belongs to this rare breed of artistes.
Now turning 60, Pandit Murli Manohar Shukla is a talented artiste and has had a varied experience as a performer, composer of merit and what is more as a methodical and meticulous teacher of high order. In these days of steady decline of quality of Khyal singing it is to the credit of Gurus like Panditji, spreading the knowledge silently with a single minded devotion that provides ray of hope.
Born on 6 th October 60 years ago in a Bhanap family hailing from coondapur, it is quite interesting to know the transformation of an original Hattangdi into a Shukla. 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 and fortunately young Murli came under the influence of Kirana Gharana teacher Prof. K. D. Javkar and later Pt. rajaram Shukla of Gwalior Gharana.
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.
“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 Laxmanprasad Jaipurwale’s Style”, offersPanditji delineating the origin of his Gayaki.
Ustad Ameerkhan’s Merukhand phrases creep in, intermittently in Panditji Vocalism. The improvisational forays in Khyal 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”, “How did a Hattangadi become a Shukla?” I put in an odd question.
Pandit Murli Manohar Shukla, who has two publications of 200 and odd bandishes to his credit written as ‘Manhar’, puts across smilingly thus “when my Guruji and I appeared for the examination at Prayag, Guruji gave his name as Rajaram Shukla and mine as Murli Manohar - without forgetting to add phrase यह मेरा बेटा है. I got my degree, as a result as Murli Manohar Shukla and later I filed my affidavit as music was to be my main source of income.
It is in the fitness of things that his admirers, friends and disciplines are planning to celebrate his 60 th birthday. This unassuming man who deserves to be heard more often has matured into a fine artiste with an inherent melodic base. It is said that wine matures with age, so does Panditji’s music. We all look forward to many more programmers, many more new creations and many more talented disciples, trained in his parampara and pray for still better success after sixty!
जीवेत् शरद: शतम् ||