Mumbai, April 4 (IANS) Legendary Hindustani classical singer Kishori Amonkar passed away after a brief illness at her home in Prabhadevi shortly before midnight on Monday, her family said on Tuesday. She was 84.
A widow, she is survived by two sons and grandchildren. The death came just a week before her 85th birthday.
Since morning, a large number of people poured in to pay homage and respect to her at the Ravindra Natya Mandir auditorium premises, where hre body was kept for public ‘darshan’. Among them were doyens of classical music and entertainment industry and her countless admirers.
Later in the evening, the mortal remains of the Mumbai-born Amonkar were consigned to flames with full state honours at the Shivaji Park crematorium. Her son Nihal lit the funeral pyre amid cries of ‘Kishori Amonkar Amar Rahe’.
Earlier, a Mumbai Police team accorded her a 21-gun salute and carried her body draped in the Tricolour on a funeral cortege.
Her sons Nihal and Vibhas, grandchildren, relatives and friends, led the funeral procession that slowly wound its way to Shivaji Park, a distance of barely 1.2 km.
A huge crowd of music aficionados, music and singing legends with whom she collaborated during her seven-decade long career, many of her outstanding students, government officials and represntatives, including Culture Minister Vinod Tawde, and thousands of grieving commoners who for decades had soaked in her divine music comprised the procession.
In her singing career in Indian classical music spanning over seven decades, she was revered as ‘Gaan-Saraswati’ of the Jaipur Gharana.
Amonkar was conferred the Padma Vibhushan and Sahitya Akademi Award among many other honours for her service and devotion to the world of music.
Leading the nation in paying tributes to Amonkar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply pained by her demise” which is “an irreparable loss to Indian classical music”.
“The works of Kishori Amonkar will always remain popular among people for years to come. May her soul rest in peace,” Modi said in a message.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi too condoled Amonkar’s death.
Veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, herself a Bharat Ratna awardee, said she was deeply anguished to hear about Amonkar’s demise.
“She was a unique and extraordinary classical singer. Her demise spells a huge loss for the world of music,” said Lata Mangeshkar.
Others who paid tributes included Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, actresses Shabana Azmi and Hema Malini, film director Madhur Bhandarkar, and singers Kailash Kher and Shreya Ghoshal.
Born in Mumbai on April 10, 1932, to Madhavdas Bhatia and Mogubai Kurdikar, Kishori paddled her first lessons in Hindustani classical music from none other than her illustrious singer-mother, who was honoured with Padma Bhushan and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards.
Having lost her father at the tender age of six, Kishori took singing lessons from her mother, accompanied her to various concerts and learnt the subtle nuances of the art of the Jaipur Gharana, which she later adopted as her singing style.
Later, she was trained under Anjanibai Malpekar of the Bhendi Bazar Gharana, Mumbai, and music teachers of various other gharanas.
The eldest among three siblings, including younger sister Lalita and brother Ulhas, Kishori excelled in Indian Classical music and even experimented over the years, innovated with the unique styles of Jaipur Gharana.
Her repertoire included light classical geets, thumris, bhajans and the heavy khayals, many interspersed with her own innovations and applications from other styles or gharanas, for which she became known and earned both bouquets and brickbats.
In the late 1950s, Kishori had suddenly lost her voice for inexplicable reasons for two years, but later bounced back with renewed vigour.
In between, she married schoolteacher Ravindra Amonkar and they had two sons, but her husband died in the early 1980s.
At one stage, she was attracted to film music and sang the solo title song for the 1964 blockbuster, V. Shantaram’s “Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne”, a launch pad for his daughter Rajshree and young actor Jeetendra.
In 1990, after a break of over 25 years, Amonkar made a come-back to films, directed the music and also sang four songs penned by the National Award winning lyricist Vasant Deo for Govind Nihalani’s film “Drishti”, which won the National Award for Best Film that year.
However, she largely stayed away from the film industry ostensibly for certain bad experiences and remained with her first love — Indian classical music.
As for her experimentations, she modified the styles of the Jaipur Gharana by introducing unique characteristics of other gharanas, bypassing traditions to prioritise emotional expressions, and deviated from the regular rhythmic, melodic or structural norms.
Her aim was to imbibe an emotional appeal of the more popular styles into the starkly resolute classical music traditions, experts noted.
A singer, creator, innovator and teacher, who was even labeled as occasionally being ‘temperamental’ for protecting the dignity of singers and musicians, she trained many classical singers and even lectured extensively on the role of ‘Rasa’ or emotions in music during her long career.
Amonkar was conferred scores of awards and honours, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1985, Padma Bhushan in 1987, Padma Vibhushan in 2002, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2009 and the Dr. TMA Pai Foundation’s Outstanding Konkani Award in 1991.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])